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Making mental health a priority


Suicide regularly makes the top 10 leading cause of deaths in the U.S.

In 2019, more than 47,000 deaths nationwide were attributed to intentional self-harm.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency, you can call the national suicide and crisis hotline at 988.

And a 2017 study by the CDC found Americans in rural areas are more likely to die by suicide compared to those in urban areas.

It’s one of the reasons local health professionals are encouraging people to make mental health a priority.

“We want to look at the brain just as we do the body. We look at the way we feel, the way we act towards others,” said Heidi Pritzl, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with Aspirus Health.

There are a lot of different factors that can lead to a person’s mental health deteriorating.

Increase in isolation, a history of trauma or abuse, decrease in motivation, and change in sleep are just some examples.

And for all the different factors that can cause mental health issues, there’s just as many ways symptoms of them can present in a person.

“Some of the symptoms that we’ll see when somebody is struggling. They’ll have an increase in isolation, sudden shift in mood. Somebody who is usually happy, we will see them more irritable and angry. We also see difficulty concentrating. We may see lack of sleep or an increase in sleep,” said Pritzl.

If your mental health is impacting your day to day life for a long stretch of time, you should seek medical help.

“We always go back to primary care to make sure their physical health is okay and that there is nothing impacting such as low vitamin D or a change in their thyroid levels. We start with primary care then we encourage mental health, therapy or linking with support. Maybe a Chaplin or someone who is close to them to receive additional help for their mental health,” said Pritzl.

For less serious cases, there are things you can do to help yourself.

Things like getting regular exercise, eating healthy, drinking lots of water, and making sleep a priority can help your physical health just as much as your mental health.

Beyond that, Pritzl also suggests things like setting goals, practicing gratitude, and staying connected with friends and family.

If someone you know is struggling with their mental health, Pritzl says one of the best ways you can be supportive is to listen.

“I think there’s a lot of stigma around mental health. It does not look like we host usually. For example, the individual who is crying in the corner. That’s not always what anxiety and depression looks like. It can look like any of us. So just being there for the individuals and listening and supporting them when needed,” said Pritzl.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency, you can call the national suicide and crisis hotline at 988.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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