What is mental health? A dictionary definition of mental health is: a person’s condition with regard to their psychological, emotional and social well-being. Every living human being has mental health. It affects how we think, feel and act. It helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood (mentalhealth.gov). It may affect a person’s ability to relate to others and function on a daily basis.

One in four adults experiences a mental health condition every year. One in 20 lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. A mental health condition isn’t the result of just one event. Research suggests multiple, interlinking causes. Genetics, environment and lifestyle combine to influence whether someone develops a mental health condition. A stressful job or home life makes some people more susceptible, as do traumatic life events. Biochemical processes and circuits as well as basic brain structure may also play a role (nami.org).

Fifty percent of mental health conditions begin by age 14; 75 percent by age 24. The normal personality and behavior changes of adolescence may cover for symptoms of a mental health problem. So, early treatment and support are crucial. Meaningful roles in social life, school and work are very possible.

Mental Health Month is a time when the mental health community spreads awareness of information, resources and support, and increases advocacy efforts to help improve life for persons living with mental health problems and their families, friends and caregivers whose lives are directly impacted by their conditions.

Please join us for a local NAMI Maine free public event: “Bridges of Hope” FaithNet presentation at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11, at the Rumford Point Church in Rumford Point.

On Friday, May 13, Mental Health First Aid courses will take place at the following locations: youths at Region 9 Learning Center, Route 2, Mexico; and adults at the Norway Town Office, Norway, 26 Danforth St., Norway. These MHFA courses run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., have a $5. lunch fee, and result in a three-year certification from the National Council on Behavioral Health.

For information on local resources and efforts, contact: Christine at namimaine.org (1-800-464-5767 or NAMI Western Mountains, Maine affiliate (Oxford and Franklin counties): Dottie at 364-2197, Sue at 418-7904, Louise at 592-9933.

ANSWER: Thank you for bringing such an important topic to our attention. Sun Spots encourages people to help shed the stigma surrounding mental illness by increasing their awareness and joining the conversation.

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