May is Mental Health Month

According to the Mental Health America, Mental Health Month was created more than 50 years ago to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of mental wellness for all.

This year’s theme is focused on an essential component of maintaining and protecting mental health and wellness: social connectedness. The tagline for this year’s observance is “Get Connected.” There are many ways of creating connections that support mental health:

o       Get connected to family and friends to feel close and supported.

o       Get connected to your community to feel a sense of belonging and purpose.

o       Get connected to professional help to feel better when you’re stressed and having trouble coping.

 The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has provided information for consumers on the role of occupational therapists in mental health.

Community Mental Health

The overall goal of occupational therapy in community mental health is to help people develop the skills and obtain the supports necessary for independent, interdependent, productive living. Particular emphasis is given to interventions that result in improved quality of life and decrease hospitalization.

Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants provide purposeful, goal-oriented activities that teach and facilitate skills in:

  • assertiveness;
  • cognition (e.g., problem solving);
  • independent living including using community resources, home management, time management, management of medication, and safety in the home and community;
  • avocational interest and pursuits:
  • self-awareness;
  • interpersonal and social skills;
  • stress management;
  • activities of daily living (e.g.; hygiene);
  • role development (e.g., parenting);
  • self-sufficiency and interdependency; and
  • wellness.

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Mood Disorders

Mood disorders are the most common psychiatric disorders and may cause depression and extreme excitement and irritability. A person with a depressive disorder may be sad, extremely tired, unmotivated, suicidal, have no interest in typical pleasurable activities, feel worthless or guilty, and be unable to sleep or eat.

Some people with depression also experience mania, and the combination of the two is known as bipolar disorder. When a person experiences symptoms of mania, he or she has feelings of extreme irritability, inflated self-esteem, racing thoughts, poor judgment, and the urge to engage in extremely risky behaviors. Some people may experience only single episodes of depression and mania, while others may have episodes that reoccur throughout their lives.

People with mood disorders may have difficulty completing tasks at work, managing a household, participating in leisure activities, and maintaining healthy relationships with family and friends. Occupational therapists can help people with mood disorders to regain their ability to function in their daily lives at work and at home.

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Substance Abuse

Substance use typically refers to the misuse of drugs such as alcohol, amphetamines, caffeine, marijuana, cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants, nicotine, pain relievers, and sedatives.

People who are addicted to a particular drug need to use increasing amounts of the drug, experience withdrawal, and have difficulty cutting down on use of the drug. Over time, daily occupations can be negatively affected by substance use, impacting relationships, work performance, and daily routines that support health and effective coping.

People who suffer from substance abuse disorders typically need medical treatment in an inpatient or outpatient setting. However, intervention is increasingly occurring in an outpatient setting integrated with other community-based health services. In many cases, people with substance abuse disorders also have other physical and mental disorders, such as clinical depression, chronic pain, and HIV.  Medication, counseling, rehabilitation, and self-help groups are most commonly used to treat these disorders.

Occupational therapy intervention differs from traditional drug treatment counseling by teaching the skills necessary for each individual to reestablish roles such as worker, spouse, parent, child, or friend without using drugs. People with addictions may learn effective coping strategies to balance responsibilities, manage money, effectively communicate with others, and cope with stressful situations.

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