Your emotional health and wellness affects every aspect of your life from how you perform at work to interactions with family and friends. Many of us tend to focus on our physical health by eating right and exercising, while not really thinking about emotional health. In fact, many people who have mental health conditions don’t fully realize it until it becomes a big problem. To prevent suicide and other dangerous effects of mental illness, it’s important to recognize what’s going on with your emotional well-being and know when to get help.
What is Emotional Wellness?
The National Institutes of Health define emotional wellness as “the ability to successfully handle life’s stresses and adapt to change and difficult times.” Life is full of ups and downs, stresses and changes, both big and small. This is true for everyone, but not everyone handles these stresses in the same way. It’s normal to get upset by everyday stresses, and it’s also normal to struggle with change and grieve a loss. Being emotionally well doesn’t mean you aren’t affected by these life experiences, but it means having coping mechanisms to make handling these situations easier.
Identifying and Addressing Mental Illness
Everyone needs tools to handle life’s bumps, but it’s also important to recognize when something else may be going on and when you need a little extra help. According to The Huffington Post, one sign of emotional wellness is being in touch with your emotions, including stress and anxiety, without letting them have control over you and overshadow what you enjoy in life. If these emotions feel out of control, you may be experiencing anxiety, depression, or some other mental condition. These mental health concerns are extremely common and can often be treated. They shouldn’t be ignored, though, because not only do these conditions make life more difficult, they are also more highly associated with negative health outcomes including suicide.
While not everyone who has suicidal thoughts also has mental illness, having an untreated mental health condition raises the risk of suicide. This higher risk of suicide is even greater for someone who abuses drugs or alcohol. Mental health issues such as anxiety, trauma and depression often co-occur with drug and alcohol addiction.
Often called a dual diagnosis, drug or alcohol dependence often comes about when someone with underlying mental illness tries to self-medicate. While substances may make symptoms feel more manageable temporarily, dependence on substances makes mental health worse over the long term. When you add in the increased risk of suicide, it becomes that much more important for someone who has drug or alcohol addiction along with mental illness to treat both conditions.
Knowing When and How to Seek Help
Whether you or someone else is struggling with mental illness or suicidal thoughts, it’s critical that you can recognize the warning signs and risk factors that indicate someone needs help. In addition to mental illness and substance abuse, other risk factors for suicide include a family history of suicide, access to a means of harm (such as firearms), a history of trauma, isolation and a recent tragic event or loss.
With or without these risk factors, anytime you or someone else experiences warning signs of suicidal thoughts that is an indication that the person needs to seek help. One common warning sign is talking, writing or thinking about taking your own life, or an increased focus on death in general. Some other warning signs include increased use of drugs or alcohol, withdrawing from social interaction and mood swings or reckless actions. It’s important to seek help when you see any of these warning signs because getting the right support and treatment can help reduce and manage suicidal thoughts.
Caring for our emotional wellness isn’t always easy. Mental illness and suicidal thoughts make you feel helpless because they have such power over you, but recognizing the warning signs is the first step in breaking free and regaining that power. Knowing that treatment is possible and seeking help builds hope that you can feel better.
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Author: Melissa Howard
Melissa Howard firmly believes that every suicide is preventable. After losing her younger brother to suicide, she felt compelled to create an organization called "StopSuicide". By providing helpful resources and articles on this website, she hopes to build a lifeline of information.