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Mother’s Day Tips from the Surgeon General: Caring for your Mental Health

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 12, 2006
Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

In honor of Mother’s Day, U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H, reminds our Nation’s mothers, mothers-to-be, and those who love them to take care of their mental health. Good mental health is vital to your overall health. It gives you a sense of well-being, the ability to enjoy life, and helps one deal with life’s stresses and problems. To help mothers focus on taking care of their mental health, the Surgeon General offers ten tips to aid them in identifying mental health risks and ways to maintain good mental health.

  1. Your mental health matters. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your overall health. In fact, the two are tightly connected. Mental health problems like depression can affect your physical health. Likewise, struggling with a physical illness can affect your mental health.
  2. Good mental health is for life. Your mental health is something you must to take care of your whole life and there will always be new challenges to face But much like physical health, there are things you can do to promote good mental health. They include both prevention and treatment. Improving mental wellness can help you deal with pressures that life puts on you. It is also important to realize that good mental health is possible even in if you don’t have good physical health.
  3. As a woman and as a mother, you may be at higher risk. Some mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders, are more common in women. Certain life events, such as pregnancy, the birth of a baby, or the responsibility of caring for others, add stresses that may increase your risks for disorders such as depression.
  4. Ask for help. Whether it’s for yourself or someone you love, help for mental illness is available. Ask for help if you sense that you

    • May harm yourself or others
    • Are experiencing severe mood swings
    • Would feel better if you talked with someone
    • Don't feel in control enough to handle things yourself

    There are many places you can go for help, information, and referrals. Talk to your doctor or health care provider, professional counselor, family services agency, a trusted friend, clergy, family member, school counselor, or employee wellness center. Information is also available online.

  5. If you need help, you are not alone. Mental disorders are very common. You should not feel ashamed. It’s not your fault - mental disorders affect nearly half of all Americans at some point in their life.
  6. Understand that trauma hurts both body and mind. Traumas can affect your health in ways you may not recognize. If you have experienced trauma, violence, or abuse in your life, it may act as a hidden cause of physical and mental disorders. These include depression, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It can also lead to unhealthy habits like smoking, drug or alcohol use, unhealthy weight, unsafe sex, or thoughts of suicide. The effects of trauma, violence, and abuse can linger in families, passing from parent to child. However, the cycle can be broken and treatment can help lift the pain of a traumatic past.
  7. Treat mental disorders as you would other illness. It is important for your overall health to get care for mental illness. Left untreated, mental disorders can take the joy out of your life, make other health problems worse, and may even put your life at risk. They may also prevent you from taking care of the people you love. Talk to your health care provider if you feel overly anxious or depressed.
  8. Treatment works. Mental health treatment has improved dramatically. Talk therapies and medication are often prescribed in combination. They are very effective at helping mental disorders and improving the way people feel. Peer support groups and meditation can also help. You should know that seeking treatment is not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, it is a sign of strength and the first step on the path to getting better.
  9. Build resilience. In addition to seeking the help you need, you can take steps to promote good mental health and aid recovery. Getting enough sleep, keeping regular routines, eating a nutritious diet, getting regular exercise, staying connected with friends and family, doing things that make you feel good about yourself, and finding good ways to cope with stress and difficulties are examples of ways you can help protect your mental health.
  10. Fight stigma. Misunderstandings about mental illness cause fear or shame and may prevent you from seeking the help you need. You can help by understanding that people do not choose to have a mental disorder. It is a disease that can and should be treated.

For more information about good mental health, see the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Consumer’s Guide to Mental Health Services online at http://www.mentalhealth.samhsa.gov/publications/allpubs/cmh94-5001/default.asp

You can find a list of State mental health organizations at http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/reslist/rl_dsp.cfm?rs_id=24&rate_chno=11-91009

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Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.

Last revised: January 10, 2008