Unhealthy behaviors, habits could be covering up a potential mental health problem

When you or someone you love is dealing with a mental health concern, it can sometimes be difficult to manage. While mental illnesses are common and treatable, it’s important to remember that people experience symptoms of mental illnesses differently – and some engage in potentially dangerous or risky behaviors to either avoid or cover up symptoms of a potential mental health problem.

That is why “Risky Business” has been selected as the theme for this year’s observance of Mental Health Month (May). It is a call to educate ourselves and others about habits and behaviors that increase the risk of developing or exacerbating mental illnesses, or could be signs of mental health problems themselves. Activities like compulsive sex, recreational drug use, obsessive internet use, excessive spending, or disordered exercise patterns can all be behaviors that can disrupt someone’s mental health and potentially lead them down a path towards crisis.

MORE: Learn about local Mental Health Month events

The national observance of Mental Health Month was started 68 years ago by Mental Health America, to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of good mental health for everyone.

This May, we are encouraging people to educate themselves about behaviors and activities that could be harmful to recovery – and to speak up without shame on social media using the hashtag #riskybusiness – so that others can learn if their behaviors are something to examine. Posting with this hashtag is a way to speak up, to educate without judgment, and to share your point of view or story with people who may be suffering – and help others figure out if they too are showing signs of a mental illness.

“It is important to understand early symptoms of mental illness and know when certain behaviors are potentially signs of something more,” notes James Pritchett, Executive Director of NRVCS (New River Valley Community Services). “We need to speak up early and educate people about risky behavior and its connection to mental illness – and do so in a compassionate, judgment-free way.”

RESOURCE: 31 Ways to Work on Your Wellness (PDF)

“Prevention, early identification and intervention, and integrated services work,” Pritchett adds. “When we engage in prevention and early identification, we can help reduce the burden of mental illness by identifying symptoms and warning signs early – and provide effective treatment before those issues reach a level of crisis.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, contact NRVCS at 540-961-8400.

NRVCS is the New River Valley’s public provider of behavioral health services, offering a full continuum of programs and supports for persons living with mental illness, substance use disorders, and/or developmental disabilities. The agency serves children, adults and families living in the counties of Floyd, Giles, Montgomery and Pulaski, as well as the City of Radford.