Knowing Your Head

miranda davis

School, homework, relationships, sports, after school jobs and extracurriculars are all things that cause stress during the teenage years. Mental illness can also become visible during these years and in the early twenties. After the recent shooting in Arizona, a new awareness of mental health issues has become a focus.

“Mental health is as important as physical health,” WRAP specialist April Ramos said. “Mental health can have a significant impact on physical health including how we eat, sleep and play.”

Mental illnesses are medical conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning, according to the National Alliance for Mental Illness. Most mental illnesses are also known to start showing symptoms during the teenage years.

“[Symptoms include] a lack of energy, disrupted sleeping patterns (which can be too little or too much sleep), irritability, isolating oneself, feelings of worthlessness, changes in eating habits, physical symptom… and a general feeling of hopelessness,” Ramos said.

Mental illnesses fall into five categories: ADHD, anxiety/panic, bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia.

“For the majority of Americans and students in particular, stress, depression and anxiety are the most common disorders,” Ramos said.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a disorder where the person affected has a hard time concentrating on a certain activity or can’t sit still for long periods of time. It is fairly common in adolescent males. Anxiety, is a normal emotion that can escalate into a disorder when anxiety becomes extreme. Disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and panic disorder.  Bipolar disorder is when a patient has extreme mood swings that can last from days to months. Clinical depression or major depression are different then feeling depressed. The difference is how long the depression lasts.

Fortunately there are resources is someone is feeling affected by mental illness. School resources are available for students, like WRAP specialists. there is also the Bert Nash center for mental illness, where they offer programs to educate and inform on mental illness, such was Mental Health First Aid for those 18 and older.

“Unfortunately when someone is diagnosed with a mental illness, like depression, it is often viewed as a personal or moral failing when in reality it is a biological process that impacts the chemical and neurotransmitters processes of our brains,” Ramos said.

Mental illness is as much of an issue as cancer, so if you, or someone you know may show signs of depression or suicidal thoughts it is important to get help as soon as possible.

The Bert Nash community mental health center is located at 200 Maine Street Lawrence, KS 66044, (785) 843-9192.