May brings Mental Health Awareness to all

Jacqueline Edwards/ Staff Photo

Katy Hummel
Contributing Writer

Tens of thousands of people are affected with a mental health disorder in America. Dr. Jo Anne Geron, a psychology instructor at Pierce College explains the main causes of mental illness as being a mix of genetics and environmental factors.

“You have the tendencies that you are born with, whether temperament or genetic mental illnesses, and then we have what the world does to us,” Geron said.

“If you get your heart broken, it’s going to change you. If you go to war and suffer trauma, it is going to change you. If you combine that with any genetic predispositions you might have you might see mental illness.”

The month of May is, among many other things, Mental Health Awareness Month; a time when people can remember to reflect on how mental illnesses affect people around the world.

One common mental health disorder is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD.

“Obsessions are thoughts. Compulsions are actions,” says Geron.

OCD occurs when the individual cannot control these obsessions and compulsions. Geron specifies that OCD is different from having a perfectionist attitude.

Geron gave the definition that OCD occurs when someone’s single compulsion or action takes up two hours of the day.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), another common disorder is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, which occurs when an individual has lived through or seen a shocking event such as being sexually assaulted, fighting a war, or witnessing the death of a loved one.

Fight or flight is a natural instinct in human behavior. When faced with a challenge one will either stand to fight or flee from whatever it is that is threatening them.

However with PTSD the fight or flight mechanism is altered and the individual is left with the residual effect from the traumatic event.

This means that someone with PTSD is often faced with high amounts of stress and left without the means to cope with it.

According to the DSMV, a mental illness diagnostic tool, psychotherapy is a treatment that can help those with PTSD cope after trauma.

Finally, depression is a severe sadness that causes pain to an individual and lasts longer than a mood swing.

Geron states that some symptoms of depression are sadness, tiredness, weight loss, or gain, as well as hopelessness and thoughts of suicide.

“What is important is it is a combination of symptoms,” she stated.

“Any one of these alone does not mean you have depression.”

When asked how mental illnesses can be prevented Geron stated there really is not a way to prevent it. Mental illness has always been there, it is a human condition.

Certainly taking care of ones’ self and having a supportive environment can help people cope.

Geron also expressed how Washington weather influences moods and can cause depression. Her suggestion is getting out in the sunshine when it is out and exercising consistently.

For students seeking help, Pierce College does offer free counseling to all of its students.

Mental health is something all people have in common and awareness of it helps raise an understanding in favor of those with mental health disabilities.

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