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Let's Talk About Mental Health

May 27, 2014
Dr. Nancy C. Lee

If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). It's confidential, free, and open 24/7.

Even though National Women's Health Week has come and gone, its message about taking steps for better health is important for us to remember all year round. The step I'd like to discuss today can be difficult to talk about, but it's crucial — paying attention to your mental health.

Thumbnail of mental health awareness infographicWhile exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of sleep, and taking time for themselves may be enough for some women to maintain good mental health, this may not be enough for everyone. There's no guarantee against mental illness. You can take all the steps we recommend for good mental health and still face overwhelming feelings of fear, dread, sadness, irritability, or anger. You might even feel out of control or have thoughts of hurting yourself.

Mental illnesses affect different women in different ways. They may affect a woman's thinking, mood, or behavior. And she may not understand why she's feeling or behaving a certain way, making it all the more difficult for her to reach out for help. She may even turn to drugs or alcohol to help relieve symptoms of depression or anxiety. This may help her feel better in the moment, but using these substances doesn't help with the underlying mental health problem. It's actually more likely to make the problem worse.

If you or someone you love is struggling, you're not alone. One in five women in the United States has a mental illness, some of which are mild, while others are more serious. Whatever your symptoms, you don't have to suffer through them on your own. Studies show that most people with mental health problems can get better, so take the first step toward recovery and find help near you.

Good mental health is not out of reach. If you'd like to learn more about mental health, signs of mental illness, and recovery, I encourage you to check out our infographic on mental health and to visit