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Understanding the signs of mental illness not only makes us better aware of symptoms, but it may help save the life of a loved one.

May is national mental health month, highlighting mental health as something everyone should understand in order to break the stigma, the negative perception of the illness.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that one in five adults and children experience a mental health condition. In 2017, suicide was the second leading cause of death for ages 10-34.

Mental illness can include conditions that vary in degree of severity, ranging from mild to moderate to severe. Those conditions include disorders that affect your mood, thinking, and behavior such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors.

Examples of signs and symptoms include: feeling sad or down; excessive worries or fears; guilt; mood changes; withdrawal from friends, family and activities; tiredness or low energy; confused thinking; inability to cope with daily life; stress; trouble relating to people or situations; sex drive changes; anger or hostility; change in eating habits; alcohol or drug abuse; and suicidal thoughts.

Breaking the stigma starts with awareness. This includes being more open, and willing to talk about it, being empathetic to others, listening and not shaming others.

“We’ve made a lot of advances in recent years in terms of better education for the community on mental health issues and helping people be okay with seeking out treatment, there still is a stigma that exists,” Joe Lilly, Director of Outpatient Behavioral Health, UnityPoint Health — Robert Young Center, said.

There are numerous mental and behavioral health resources available in the Quad-Cities area. Among those are UnityPoint Health — Robert Young Center that offers a health-care continuum from inpatient to outpatient services. Those services include individual, group and family therapy, as well as psychiatry care, medication management, and many other case management and support services.

“If you are diagnosed with a mental health condition like depression or bipolar disorder, don’t align yourself with your diagnosis. It’s a condition like any other health condition. It doesn’t define you,” Lilly said.

If you or someone you love feels they may be struggling with a mental health issue, they should consult their primary care physician or reach out to one of the local mental health care centers.

If you, a family member or friend is struggling and looking for a place to turn, call the Robert Young Center at (309) 779-2031. You can also call the 24/7 Crisis Hotline (309) 779-2999.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 or you can visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

You can learn more about mental illness by visiting nimh.nih.gov or nami.org.

Lastly, when a family member or a friend seek you out for advice or to just talk, make time and listen. You may be their peace of mind and assist them in getting the help they need. Understanding, compassion, and caring can make a life-changing difference for someone in need of mental healthcare.

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