Prevent, identify, treat mental illnesses

When your foot hurts, it’s obvious that you can’t walk or run as well. You also know that a visit to a doctor can get you started on the road to recovery.

The methods for prevention, identification and treatment of mental health issues might not be as obvious.

Proper footwear and stretching cannot prevent all injuries to your feet. Neither will self-care prevent all mental health issues. Prevention strategies can make a difference, though.  

Take time to practice the tools presented below to improve your mental health, have more energy and live a healthier life.

Don’t underestimate the power of rest. Sleep helps to regulate physical processes in your body. Sleep is essential for coping with and preventing stress, depression and anxiety. Aim for seven or eight hours of sleep per night to function at your best.

If you have problems with sleep, consider adjusting the temperature and darkness of the room. Try reducing your caffeine intake, setting a regular bedtime, exercising during the day and practicing a relaxation exercise before bed.

Be positive
A positive outlook leads to a happier, healthier life. Shift your perspective from negative to positive by catching yourself when you worry about things that you cannot control or when your self-talk focuses on the negative details. Keep a gratitude journal to write about the people and events that make you happy each day.

Connect with others
Social support from family, friends and co-workers can provide you with someone to talk to when times are difficult, as well as someone with whom you can laugh and share good times. Surrounding yourself with positive people can enhance your mood and well-being.

Eat well
Food is your fuel. Fuel your body with nutrients and vitamins that support mental and physical health. Focus on natural foods — fruit, vegetables, fish and nuts. Removing the junk food from your diet and replacing it with healthy foods can create changes in your brain chemistry to improve your mood.
Remember, as you sleep you are burning calories, so start your day off with a hearty breakfast and avoid skipping meals throughout the remainder of the day.

Playing isn’t just for children. When was the last time that you did something just for you? Engage in fun activities and laugh. Go for a walk, take a hike, play a game or throw a frisbee with friends. Leisure activities and hobbies can restore and re-energize you.

Psychological pain can be more difficult to identify than physical pain. Its effects on well-being, however, are every bit as painful. An individual might not be able to say “I am depressed and it is affecting my interpersonal relationships.” Rather, the problem is often noticed when important things in life start to suffer. For example, not feeling like going to work, withdrawing from friends and family members, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, losing interest in activities that used to be enjoyable and worrying more than usual can all be signs of a problem.
If you notice these symptoms in yourself or another person, it is important to seek help. The earlier you get help, the faster the problem can be resolved.

What does it mean to seek help and get treatment? Seeking help does not mean that you are “crazy.” Unfortunately, there is a stigma in both civilian and military cultures toward seeking help for a psychological issue. This is unfortunate, because seeking help when the problem is first identified can lead to a better outcome.
Skilled professionals are equipped to listen to you and help you utilize coping resources to address the issue. Treatment options include talking to a Military OneSource representative (, as well as a chaplain or behavioral health professional in your local community.

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