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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Martenson

October's Reminder

October is an important month in the mental health field! The first week of October is Mental Illness Awareness Week, then comes Obsessive Compulsion Disorder Awareness Week, The World Health Organization’s World Mental Health Day is October 10th and National Depression Screening Day is October 15th.

But do we have to wait until October to pay attention to our mental health or the mental health of our loved ones? The answer is no!

Mental Health Nationally and Globally

Mental Health is a critical part of our daily lives. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that mental disorders affect 20% of the world’s children and adolescents and nationally, 1 in 5 American adults have a mental health disorder (over 40 million Americans!). Our thoughts, feelings and behavior contribute to our work, romance, school, socialization, spirituality, investment in interests, quality of life…just about every part of our existence so it makes sense that we’d pay attention to these factors!

We also know that mental health is a concern locally and we see the impacts of neglecting mental health sometimes through our neighbors, our friends, our children or even ourselves. Recent Data collected and published by Mental Health America (MHA), a national community-based nonprofit “dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and to promoting the overall mental health of all Americans”, ranked states across the nation in terms of prevalence of mental ill and access to care. A low ranking indicates high need and sparse access to care; a high ranking indicated low need and abundant access to care. Statistics are below:

  • Overall, Iowa ranked 6th in the nation and Illinois ranked 11th for need versus access to care.

  • For adults, Iowa ranked 2nd in the nation and Illinois ranked 8th.

  • For youth, Iowa and Illinois fell to 8th and 13th nationally.

  • Illinois saw a higher prevalence or mental illness coming in 9th nationally and Iowa 12th.

  • For access to care, Illinois fell the 22nd nationally (still in the better half) while Iowa ranked 9th.

Recognizing the Signs

Recognizing the signs of compromised mental health is important and while sadness, anger, fear, and uncertainty are as normal to the human experience as happiness; an exaggerated presence of these in a person’s life that gets in the way of their normal functioning warrants attention. The National Alliance on Mental Illness suggests some of the following to be on the look out for in your behavior or in the behavior of a loved one:

  • Excessive worrying or fear

  • Feeling excessively sad or low

  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning

  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria

  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger

  • Avoiding friends and social activities

  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people

  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy

  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite

  • Changes in sex drive

  • Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don't exist in objective reality)

  • Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (”lack of insight” or anosognosia)

  • Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs

  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)

  • Thinking about suicide

  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress

  • An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance

Additionally, for children, the following can be signs that something is bothering them:

  • Changes in school performance

  • Excessive worry or anxiety, for instance fighting to avoid bed or school

  • Hyperactive behavior

  • Frequent nightmares

  • Frequent disobedience or aggression

  • Frequent temper tantrums

While these symptoms do not in every case suggest a mental health disorder, they can be a signal that you or someone you love needs support and help. For more signs and strategies to help, take a look at our blog on “Reducing Your Child’s Stress at School”.

Getting Help

October is all about informing the public about Mental Health and breaking down stigma. Stigma is synonymous with dishonor or disgrace and is defined as a mark of shame: a stain. Unfortunately, there is still stigma connected to mental illness and seeking treatment to improve mental health. Shame lives in dark places. Author and psychiatrist Carl Jung called shame “a soul eating emotion”. Author and researcher Brene Brown regards shame as corrosive to “the very part of us that believes we are capable of change”. Combating shame takes courage. Taking the first step to call a professional takes courage. Talking about mental health takes courage. Admitting that mental health is a need of ours takes courage.

The good news?

You don’t have to be the first and you’re certainly not going to be the last!

Stigma breaks down as we take the reins of our mental health and share our stories of struggle, support and success with others.

To take the first step and reclaim or improve your mental heal well being visit or call us at (563) 424-2016 today!


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