Categories
Self-Compassion

Mental Health Awareness Month

By: Meghaa

It’s that time of year again – the school year is winding down, a summer breeze is in the air, and everyone is ready for vacation! While May is appropriately popular for its blooming scenery, it also marks the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Month, an annual event which many people can participate in through a variety of ways. So wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, here are some different methods you can practice to raise awareness for mental health!

Mental Health Awareness Month started in the U.S. in 1949 by an organization called Mental Health America (MHA), right after World War II. Since then, MHA has continued the tradition of the month by providing updated online toolkits during March and selecting an annual theme. This year’s “Back to Basics” connects COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on mental health, with MHA recognizing that “stress, isolation, and uncertainty have taken a toll on [our] well-being”. 

As with the theme, let’s start by going over some foundational terms associated with mental health care and their significance. According to MHA, mental health refers to our emotional and social well-being, so it impacts our behaviors, thoughts, and relationships with others. As a result, prioritizing mental health is important to make well-informed decisions regarding daily aspects of our lives. A diagnosis is not needed for a person to be dealing with poor mental health, which can stem from a multitude of factors such as trauma, stress, or genetics. 

Since mental health is a journey, there will be many highs and lows which each bring their own set of unique circumstances. If you are in a good mental place currently, remember to practice coping mechanisms – skills that help you deal with difficult situations – such as taking up a new hobby or extracurricular interest. This way, your skills will be refined and polished to use when needed. These fluctuations in one’s health also lead to struggles such as not feeling “sick enough” to seek treatment for mild symptoms. 

By Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash.com

We’ve seen the background behind mental health, so now how can we make a difference? To begin with, educating ourselves is the most important step in the process of advocacy, so we do not spread misinformation and become well acquainted with taboo topics. 

For example, did you know…

  • 50 million or 19% of U.S. adults struggle with mental illness, making it more commonplace than people expect
  • There are 3 clusters of personality disorders characterized by different symptoms
  • The Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 not only contends with physical health benefits, but also expands insurance plans to cover mental health treatment

To learn more about similar topics you can do one of these four things suggested or even more!

  • Local: Talk to your school counselor for information regarding mental health basics
  • Casual: Check out MHA’s website for quick facts/statistics
  • Informative: Go to your local library and read books like “This is Depression”
  • Professional: Take an online, college accredited course such as through Stanford

Online advocacy is another good place to start, especially for those with social anxiety or social media access. Toolkits made by organizations like Mental Health America, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), New Directions, and more can help assist with curating infographics and videos to post on online platforms. Many are downloadable and accessible for free, providing reliable content. Bulleted below are just a few toolkits found online, but feel free to explore more!

By Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash.com

Last but not least, in-person advocacy is a more direct action that would take more planning and energy to execute, but would leave a greater impact. This can be done on a variety of levels, but starting small helps when beginning your advocacy journey, and then you can build your way up to a greater platform. Through this, you will have the chance to nurture valuable leadership skills to better tackle mental health awareness in new and creative ways! For now remember to think outside the box for a more personal, unique method to communicate your message.

We hope these suggestions empower you to take action and raise awareness for mental health as we go “Back to Basics” for this month! 

By Duy Pham on Unsplash.com

Works Cited:

“Starting to Think about Mental Health.” Mental Health America, https://mhanational.org/starting-think-about-mental-health.

Categories
Body Dysmorphia

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

By Meghaa Ravichandran

February’s most celebrated holiday, Valentine’s Day, is (now) a heartfelt honoring of love as couples exchange gifts mainly centered around chocolates and flowers. Just one week after Valentine’s Day, however, is a week dedicated to National Eating Disorders Awareness (NEDA), taking place from February 21 – February 27, 2022. The official campaign sloga, See the Change, Be the Change, signifies the era of activism and awareness that is changing the public’s perception on eating disorders as well as accessibility to helpful resources for those with eating disorders. 

Basic Information:

Eating disorders are a serious mental illness that affect a person’s internal relationship with food and body image, often leading to serious effects such as unhealthy weight loss/gain and intrusive thoughts. These disorders can affect people of all ages and backgrounds, but researchers have found that eating disorders more commonly impact teenagers and young adults. On average, almost 3 years pass before those experiencing eating disorder symptoms seek help. 

Types of Disorders:

There are a multitude of eating disorder classifications, but here are three common types: 

Anorexia Nervosa (AN): Characterized by unhealthy weight loss and distorted body image, people with anorexia restrict their intake of food, often not noticeable at first glance as one does not need to be underweight to be struggling. Both thinner and plus-sized individuals can be diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa, which is classified with two subtypes: restrictive and binge-purge. AN can be fatal as suicide is the second leading cause of death for people diagnosed with AN. 

  • Diagnostic Criteria:
    • Restriction of energy intake
    • Intense fear of gaining weight even though underweight
    • Disturbance in the way one’s body weight/shape is perceived 
  • Symptoms: Dramatic weight loss, developing food rituals, denying feeling hungry, limited social spontaneity, concerned about eating in public, sleep problems, dry skin, muscle weakness, etc…

Bulimia Nervosa (BN): Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by a cycle of binging followed by compensatory behaviors such as forced vomiting and fasting. Individuals diagnosed with this disorder can be any weight. Recurrent binge-and-purge cycles affect the entire digestive system, leading to chemical imbalances in the body that affect other organ functions, which can cause fatal consequences such as cardiac arrest. 

  • Diagnostic Criteria: 
    • Recurrent episodes of binge-eating
    • Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behavior to prevent weight gain
    • Episodes and behavior occur at least once a week for three months
    • Self-evaluation influenced by body shape/weight
  • Symptoms: skips meals or takes small portions of food at regular meals, disappears after eating often, drinks excessive amounts of water, teeth are discolored, self-injury, calluses on back of hands from self-induced vomiting, unusual swelling in cheeks, etc…

Binge Eating Disorder (BED): One of the most common eating disorders in the U.S. and one of the newest eating disorders formally recognized in the DSM-5, BED is characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food, a feeling of loss of control, and not regular use of unhealthy compensatory measures. Unlike BN, BED is not followed by compensatory measures so individuals with this disorder are often overweight. 

  • Diagnostic Criteria:
    • Recurrent episodes of binge eating
    • Marked distress regarding binge eating is present
    • Occurs at least once a week for 3 months
    • Not associated with recurrent use of compensatory behaviors
  • Symptoms: frequent diets, having secret recurring episodes of binge eating, disruption in normal eating behaviors, feelings of disgust/depression/guilt after overeating, eating alone out of embarrassment, stomach cramps, difficulties concentrating, etc… 

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID): Another new diagnosis recognized by the DSM-5, AFRID is similar to anorexia as individuals who experience both limit their intake of food. However, those diagnosed with AFRID do not feel distress regarding their body’s appearance (body dysmorphia). AFRID can stall the growth and weight development of children and results in psychological problems as well. Children with a co-occurring anxiety disorder, habits of picky eating, and diagnosis of autism/ADHD are more likely to develop AFRID. 

  • Diagnostic Criteria:
    • Eating/feed disturbance result in one of four effects
    • Does not occur exclusively during course of anorexia/bulimia
    • Not attributable to concurrent medical condition
    • Not better explained by lack of available food/ cultural practice
  • Symptoms: dramatic weight loss, only eat certain textures of food, fears of choking/vomiting, consistent/vague gastrointestinal issues around mealtime, limited range of preferred food becoming narrower, menstrual irregularities, muscle weakness, impaired immune functioning etc… 

Other eating disorders include Pica, Rumination Disorder, Laxative Abuse, Orthorexia, and more. 

Resources: 

If you or anyone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, contact the Eating Disorders Helpline at 1(888)-375-7767 for treatment referrals and support/encouragement. Eating Disorder Hope has also compiled a list of websites available for those struggling with certain eating disorders both based in and out of the U.S. 

If you would like to raise awareness and join the fight against eating disorders, you can take action on the official NEDA website where you can share your story, register for a spring 2022 NEDA walk, represent NEDA on your college campus, volunteer as a landmark photograph, and plan a NEDAwareness Week Event.  


Works Cited: 

“Eating Disorders.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders. 

“Information by Eating Disorder.” National Eating Disorders Association, 21 Feb. 2018, https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/information-eating-disorder. 

“Nedawareness Week.” National Eating Disorders Association, 19 Feb. 2022, https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/get-involved/nedawareness.