Uplifting Mental Health and Wellness

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For science.
Mental health is a critical component of public health. It consists of emotional, psychological and social well-being and is important from childhood through adulthood.1 In the United States, mental illness is one of the most common health conditions.2 In a year, one in five Americans will experience mental illness. Fifty percent of mental illness begins by the age of 14, and 75% begins by the age of 24.3 People who identify as being two or more races are more likely to report mental illness than other races, followed by American Indian/Alaska Native, Caucasian and Black populations. For all racial groups, except American Indian/Alaska Native, women are more likely than men to receive mental health services.4

For action.
Advocacy for mental health is crucial, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic. Ask Congress to make mental health services readily available during the current and future public health emergencies.5 Get involved in Project 2025 – an initiative to reduce the annual rate of suicide.6 Learn about suicide prevention and intervention7 by joining the National Alliance on Mental Illness8 or APHA’s Mental Health Section.9 And if you or someone you know is in need of mental health service, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s national helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.10

For health.
The COVID-19 pandemic can affect mental health in many ways, including through loss of a loved one, isolation due to physical distancing mandates, exposure to the virus and loss of income.11 Given the past year’s strain, it’s not surprising that health care workers have a high risk of developing mental illness.12 Practicing strategies like being physically active, getting at least eight hours of sleep each night, eating a well-balanced diet, practicing gratitude, participating in activities you enjoy, developing coping skills, meditating and connecting with others can improve mental health.13 People who engage in physical activity have fewer days of poor mental health than individuals who do not exercise.14 Talking to a licensed therapist, joining a support group or 12-step program or considering medication under the supervision of a physician can all be beneficial.10

For justice.
Certain childhood risk factors, including growing up in poverty or experiencing abuse, can be an indicator for mental illness later in life.15 Each year in the U.S., more than 300 Black people are killed by police, which harms the mental health of Black people overall, even those who were not directly affected by the violence.16 The use of police force and violence during protests has been linked to worsening mental health among protestors.17 The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected the BIPOC communities. People of color have a higher morbidity and mortality rate due to racial and ethnic disparities in health care.18 The pandemic has also added more stress to caregivers – and two out of three are women.19 Access to better treatment and coping options is critical for those most at risk.