May 2011 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share!

May has been designated as Mental Health Month. Mental Health Month began in 1949. This year’s theme is “Live Your Life Well”. One in six adults and almost one in ten children suffer from a mental illness. Mental illness is equal to heart disease and cancer as a cause of disability in theUnited Statesand is considered a major public health burden that is under recognized. About twenty five percent of homeless persons in theUnited Stateshave a serious mental illness. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death forMaineresidents and the second leading cause of death for persons inMaine ages 15-24 years.

Mental Health America was started in 1909 and works to educate the public about good mental health and its importance to the well being of every person; to advocate for access to mental health services; to end discrimination against persons with mental health disorders and addiction; and to provide support to the sixty million plus individuals living with mental health and substance use problems.

Mental health is often described as how well a person copes with daily life and the changes that occur at home, at work, and in life. Mental illness is a disorder of the brain and has many factors including genetics, environmental factors, social and cultural factors, AND is non ones fault. Daily challenges to our mental health include extended work hours, multiple jobs, and less vacation time. One in three Americans is chronically overworked. Often we work at home so home is no longer considered a place of rest. Sleep, exercise, and healthy eating all contribute to mental health. We are being overwhelmed with information and may have less contact with family, friends, neighbors, and the communities in which we live. Many children are involved with multiple activities and have no “down time”. Additional challenges may include divorce, the stresses associated with being a caregiver, loss of a job, death of a family member or friend, addiction to drugs and alcohol, domestic abuse, living with a chronic illness, or dealing with a natural disaster.

The National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health has designated the first week in May as National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week to promote positive mental health, well being, and social development for all children and youth. About one in five children or around 14 million children suffer from a mental illness in a given year and less than twenty five percent get the help they need. Nearly five million American children and adolescents suffer from a serious mental illness that significantly interferes with their daily lives. The earlier the diagnosis and treatment, the less severe the disease or disorder becomes.

Risk factors for children’s mental health include violence, poverty, poor nutrition, and inadequate housing and can decrease the chances for a positive outcome. According to the Surgeon General, ninety percent of children who die by suicide have a mental health disorder. Ineffective or no treatment for children with mental health issues has serious negative effects including school drop outs, child welfare involvement, and juvenile justice involvement. It is estimated that sixty six percent of boys and seventy five percent of girls in juvenile detention have at least one mental health disorder.

For more information, visit,,, Healthy Maine 2010,, and

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