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Mental Health Matters

Mental Health is Part of Your Health

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The first step is recognizing that your mental health is your health. Your mental health can also affect your physical health in some serious and surprising ways. When you’re feeling down, you may be less likely to take care of yourself: you may skip dosages of a medication or not get enough sleep. You may also engage in riskier behavior, such as drinking or eating to excess, taking drugs, or acting out aggressively.

It goes both ways: people with chronic conditions may be more likely to suffer from poor mental health. And if you have a physical condition AND you suffer from depression, you may have worse health outcomes.

Understand the Difference Between Sadness and Depression

Tired Man

You’re probably no stranger to sadness: it’s an emotion that makes you feel bad or down, usually following an unfortunate or unpleasant event, such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or ending a relationship. Sadness is a common, and even appropriate reaction to these circumstances.

But in some cases, the sadness becomes something more, and can manifest in intense and even physical symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue/loss of energy
  • Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of worthlessness

If you have any of these feelings that last almost all day, for at least two weeks, and it’s gotten to the point that it interferes with your daily activities, you may actually suffer from depression.

Depression is a serious condition. It may have its roots in an event, such as a major life change (getting fired, moving away from family and friends…even the stress from a happy event like getting married may trigger it). It can be a physical condition, or it may run in your family. Even getting less daylight can cause depression.

There’s a common myth that you can just snap out of it; perhaps if you just get some fresh air, talk to a friend, or treat yourself to a nice meal, you’d be able to cheer yourself up. But that’s not how depression works. It’s not a matter of will power, commitment, or positive thinking. Unless you get help, depression can last for months or even years.

Seek Out Professional Help

Woman Listening to Her Doctor

If you think you’re suffering from depression or mental illness, talk to a doctor. Under the Affordable Care Act, all health care plans are required to provide coverage for mental health care.

Your primary care doctor is a good place to start, since they already know you and your health care history. It may be easier for you, since you’re already familiar with them.

Getting Tested and Treated

Young Man Talking To Her Doctor

Once you’ve found a doctor, they can help you determine if you do have depression or another mental health disorder, its underlying causes, and the best treatment to help you feel better.

You may be given a physical exam and lab tests to help rule out other conditions. For example, if your thyroid gland isn’t producing enough hormone, you may experience depression-like symptoms, such as a low mood, fatigue, and weight gain or loss.

At this point, your doctor may recommend medication or refer you to another doctor for additional testing and treatment.

If your doctor recommends medication, you may need to try different medications before you find the one that works for you. Having bloodwork and a history of your symptoms will help your doctor tailor your treatment, but not every patient responds to every drug. If that’s the case, communicate your feelings to your doctor, be patient, and follow their advice about your prescription.

You Don’t Have to Suffer – and You Don’t Have to Do It Alone

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AltaMed is here for you, and we’re committed to your mental and physical well-being. To learn more about AltaMed’s behavioral health services, call 855-425-1777.

If you have suicidal thoughts and feel like you could be a harm to yourself or others, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.

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Caring for Yourself While Caring for Others

Caregiving can be a challenging role for anyone, no matter if you’re a professional or caring for a loved one. To be the best caregiver you can be, take time to take care of yourself too!

Make Time for Yourself

Woman Sitting Reading

Caring for someone is not an easy role to take on, so make sure to set realistic expectations for yourself. If you start feeling anger and frustration, these could be signs you’re getting overwhelmed

Schedule a few 10-minute breaks throughout the day and make sure to stick to them! You can use these short breaks to practice a breathing exercise, read a book, or listen to your favorite playlist. When you feel refreshed, you will be able to approach any challenge in a more positive way.

Mind Your Body

Senior Couple Eating a Healthy Lunch

Taking care of yourself isn’t a luxury; you need to take care of your body so it can function properly. Have you eaten well today? Are you well hydrated? Fuel your body with the nutrients it needs and try not to skip meals, even if you feel pressed for time.

If your work is physically demanding, make sure to stay active. Squeeze in time for enjoyable exercises like taking a walk, releasing tension at a yoga class, or simply stretching at home.

Don’t Discount Your Emotions

Man Looking Through a Window

Caregiver burnout is real, and not surprisingly, it’s quite common. It’s a state of physical and emotional exhaustion that can leave you feeling anxious, fatigued, stressed, and depressed – and it can make you feel like your compassion has dried up.

Caregiver burnout affects both your body and your mind. Some of the most recognizable symptoms include:

  • Withdrawal from friends, family, and other loved ones
  • Loss of interests in activities you used to enjoy
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Getting sick more often
  • A general feeling of hopelessness and helplessness

By following the tips above, you may be able to keep yourself feeling recharged and healthy. If it’s still too much, it might be time to admit that you need help.

Caregivers Need Help Too

Girls Hugging Each Other in a Support Group

There’s nothing wrong with asking for help or accepting help. Allow others to be there for you and take care of you. You can join a caregiver support group or check-in with your doctor to make sure you’re in good health.

However, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and start believing that you may not be able to continue to do the job on your own, it may be time to seek outside resources. Coordinate with your loved one’s family doctor – they can make recommendations based on the unique needs of the person you’re caring for.

AltaMed is Here for You

AltaMed Caregiver Attending Senior People at Lunch

Contact us to see how we can help. In addition to primary care and specialty physicians to help you and your loved ones grow healthy and stay healthy at every age, we also offer a wide variety of services for seniors. We can help coordinate care and treatment, and we may be able to help identify community services that can lighten your load. And the AltaMed PACE is a program that helps keep seniors with complex medical needs healthy and independent at home. Call us today: we’re here for you.

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Mental Health: Seek Help, Be the Help

Mental health and suicide have been topics of interest in the media due to the recent loss of several high-profile celebrities. At AltaMed, we are here to help so that mental health issues can be treated and do not lead to suicide. Although it may be hard, you can always ask for help and be of support to others.

Here is how you can take action:

Mother and daughter hugging

Seek Help

Seek professional help if you ever feel helpless or alone in your feelings. If you feel like you need to talk, open up to friends or family who you trust. If you feel like you need professional help, you can safely reach out to the Suicide Prevention Hotline anonymously. Once you open up and acknowledge the underlying issue, you’ll be able to move forward and work on treating it.

Two young people sitting and talking

Be the Help

Be there for those around you and look for warning signs. Speak with dignity and respect when discussing mental illness to create a safe space for others to open up without judgment. Be a positive influence on others and empower them. Encourage others to reach out to the resources listed below to get them the help they need.

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A Fresh Start

Every day is an opportunity to start fresh. Work on putting yourself first by doing things that make you feel good from the inside. You can go for a walk, dance to your favorite music, spend time volunteering and helping others, or hang out with friends or family.

If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, reach out to our Behavior Health team at (855) 425-1777. Our licensed clinical social workers are trained to help you cope when life gets stressful.

If you are in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the suicide prevention hotline today at (800) 273-TALK (8255).

Mental Health Matters