By Karen Ranus of NAMI Central Texas and Ellen Richards of Integral Care
Being Superwomen – juggling family, career, relationships, community service and aging parents – puts us at risk. Trying to do it ALL, women often forget to put themselves on the “to do” list. Neglecting to take care of ourselves can and does impact our mental health.
Research shows that women are twice as likely as men to experience depression, anxiety and PTSD, and twice as likely to attempt suicide. Yet, few of us recognize mental health is just as important as physical health. One in five people – women, men and children – experience a mental health issue in their lifetime. Mental illness is actually far more common than cancer. It is a brain-based disorder, deserving the same care, treatment and respect as a physical illness. But we still have work to do when it comes to bringing mental illness out of the shadows.
Mental Health Month and National Women’s Health Week are recognized in May, creating an opportunity to raise awareness and share resources. If you or a female relative, friend or colleague experiences a mental health issue, here are things you can do:
- Seek help from a professional. Help is available and recovery is possible. Integral Care has a 24/7 Helpline (512-472-HELP/4357) for anyone who needs immediate emotional support – even if you’re just having a bad day. Mental health professionals are available around the clock to offer help without judgement and connection to services like integrated mental and primary health care and counseling.
- Take a free class or join a support group with NAMI Central Texas. NAMI supports individuals who experience a mental illness and their family members as they move toward recovery. People come together to connect, learn and share resources. Learn more at NAMICentralTX.org.
- Share your story. When women share their stories, we have the power to shift the conversation around mental health, create change in our healthcare system and improve mental health care for everyone. Being open about our own struggles empowers our community to recognize and talk about mental health without shame or stigma.
- Be compassionate and offer support. Just as you would reach out to someone diagnosed with cancer, reach out to someone experiencing a mental health issue. Share food, send a card, drive them to an appointment. Take Integral Care’s free Mental Health First Aid class to learn how to help someone experiencing a mental health issue or crisis. Register at integralcare.org/MHFA.
As we are told before taking off for a flight, “put on your oxygen mask first before assisting others.” Protecting our health and well-being are essential for women to continue to thrive. Women strengthen our community when we take care of ourselves just as we take care of others. Tending to our mental health is as important as our physical health. With access to quality mental health care and connection to a strong support network, we build health and well-being and become a more resilient community.
Karen Ranus is the Executive Director of NAMI Central Texas, the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Learn more at NAMICentralTX.org.
Ellen Richards is the Chief Strategy Officer of Integral Care, the Local Mental Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disability Authority for Travis County. Learn more at IntegralCare.org.