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    Back to Basics

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | May 15th, 2022

    Back to Basics

    Last week, Ashley Judd revealed that her mother, Naomi Judd died of a self-inflicted firearm wound. Last week, a friend of mine called to inform me that one of our classmates from college committed suicide.

    • Over 30, 000 people in the United States die by suicide every year.
    • Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States.
    • Every 16 minutes someone in the United States dies of suicide.
    • 90% of all people who die by suicide have a psychiatric diagnosis at the time of their death.
    • Major depression is the psychiatric diagnosis most commonly associated with suicide.

    If you or someone you know is in crisis, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or Crisis Text Line by texting MHA to 741741. March is Mental Health Month and the Mental Health America (MHA) has provided a toolkit to help all of us. This year’s theme is Back to Basics.  MHA has provided the following message:

    Since the start of the pandemic, more and more people are talking about mental health. An increasing number of folks are starting to see it for what it is: one important component of your overall health and well-being, just like your physical health. But mental health conditions, resources, and conversations can still feel complicated and out of reach.

    Are there common warning signs for mental health conditions or crises? Specific factors that can lead to mental health conditions or even crises? What resources are out there – and how do I know if they’re right for me?

    Many people are learning about mental health topics for the first time. Having a widespread understanding of the topic can help you be more informed if you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health condition or crisis. Around half of the people in the U.S. will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their life, so everyone should know what to look out for.

     Everyone should have the support needed to thrive. Communities that have been historically and presently oppressed face a deeper mental health burden because of the added impact of trauma, oppression, and harm.

    There is often no single cause for a mental health condition. Instead, there are many possible risk factors that can influence how likely a person is to experience a mental health condition or how serious the symptoms may be. Some risk factors for mental health conditions include: trauma, which can be a one-time event or ongoing; your environment and how it impacts your health and quality of life (also known as social determinants of health like financial stability and health care access); genetics; brain chemistry; and your habits and lifestyle such as a lack of sleep.

    Of course, understanding the risk factors for a mental health condition can be more difficult when it’s your own mental health. Take time to ask yourself about your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to see if this is part of a pattern that may be caused by a mental health condition. Here are some questions to get you started:

    • Have things that used to feel easy started feeling difficult?
    • Does the idea of doing daily tasks like making your bed now feel really, really hard?
    • Have you lost interest in activities and hobbies you used to enjoy?
    • Do you feel irritated, possibly to the point of lashing out at people you care about?

    Our society focuses much more on physical health than mental health, but both are equally important. If you are concerned about your mental health, there are several options available. You are not alone – help is out there, and recovery is possible. It may be hard to talk about your concerns, but simply acknowledging to yourself that you’re struggling is a really big step.

    Taking a screen at mhascreening.org can help you to better understand what you are experiencing and get helpful resources. After that, consider talking to someone you trust about your results, and seek out a professional to find the support you need.

    While you may not need this information today, knowing the basics about mental health will mean you’re prepared if you ever need it. Go to mhanational.org/may to learn more.

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    Secure Your Copy of Letters to My Sisters by Dr. Ngozi Osuagwu.
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    The book discusses common gynecological and women’s health issues in a series of witty and entertaining letters. These letters, all educational, offer suggestions on what approaches to take in tackling the medical problems that typically bring women to an ob/gynecologist. The letters are spiced with art, a poem and quotes. Although its emphasis is on gynecology and women’s health, it touches on some other medical issues that make women visit their doctors.

    The second half of the book briefly discusses the most common gynecological conditions and also provides an overview of sexually transmitted infections. A list of annotated websites dealing with the different topics in the book is provided for the reader who wants to pursue each subject in depth.




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