The Importance of Mental Health

Woman in a therapy session

The quality of all aspects of your health plays a significant role throughout your life. While optimizing your physical health is a key component to enjoying a long quality lifespan, your mental health is just as important.  Good mental health offers many positive benefits that not only boost your wellbeing but also enrich your life.

According to recent estimates from Johns Hopkins, 1 in 4 U.S. adults (26%) experience mental illness each year, while research from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) states that 1 in 20 people live with a serious mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (13.1 million.)

Nearly 8 million children and adolescents in the U.S. suffer from a serious mental illness.

In fact, 90% of Americans who die by suicide (the second leading cause of death among those aged 10 to 34 years) have experienced symptoms of a treatable mental health condition like depression, anxiety disorders or other forms of serious mental illnesses.

Researchers also estimate that 50% of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24.

Yet despite these statistics, nearly 50% of people with mental illnesses don’t seek treatment. In fact, on average, it takes 11 years for someone to seek help after first experiencing mental disorder symptoms. Mental health associated issues and illnesses continue to be stigmatized, even though instances are growing among men, women and children facing mental illness struggles and challenges in today’s world.

October 2 through October 8 is designated Mental Illness Awareness Week, with National Depression Screening Day on October 6 and World Mental Health Day on October 10. Your local Capital Women’s Care team of knowledgeable, compassionate women’s health professionals wants to share important information about the importance of quality mental health, the unique impact specific mental health challenges have on women and valuable tips on what you can do to monitor and optimize your personal mental health and daily wellbeing to help you achieve and enjoy a quality, long life.

What is Mental Health?

Mental health encompasses your emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. It affects how you think, feel and act. It also helps determine how you handle stress, relate to others and make choices throughout your life. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood and into the golden years.

Mental health issues can affect thinking, mood and behavior. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:

Mental health problems are common, and help is available. Those diagnosed can recover good mental health through individualized professional treatment.

The Ripple Effect of Mental Health

Undiagnosed mental health issues not only have negative consequences on your mental health and wellbeing. Those with mental health issues face additional risks:

  • People with depression have a 40% higher risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases than the general population. People with serious mental illness are nearly twice as likely to develop these conditions.

  • Studies show 43% of adults with depression have obesity. Women, especially white women, with depression are more likely to have obesity than women without depression. Women with depression are also more likely than men with depression to have obesity.

  • Up to 1 in 4 people with cancer may also experience depression. More women with cancer than men with cancer experience depression.

  • 32.1% of U.S. adults with mental illness also experienced a substance use disorder in 2020 (17 million people.)

  • Unemployment is higher among U.S. adults having mental illness (6.4%) compared to those who do not (5.1%.)

  • High school students with significant symptoms of depression are more than twice as likely to drop out compared to their peers.

  • Students ages 6 through 17 years with mental, emotional or behavioral concerns are 3-times more likely to repeat a grade.

Quality Mental Health Benefits

There are many benefits to optimizing your personal mental health, including:

  • better coping skills when triggered by stressors
  • improved relationships with others
  • reduced levels of anxiety
  • clear thinking and reasoning
  • improved physical health
  • and better overall quality of life.

Positive mental health allows you to:

  • realize your full potential
  • cope with the stresses of life
  • work productively
  • and contribute meaningfully to your community.

Women’s Mental Health

More than 1 in 5 U.S. women experienced a mental health condition in the past year. Many mental health conditions (depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder) affect more women than men or affect women differently.

According to NAMI, the prevalence of Any Mental Illness (AMI) and Serious Mental Illness (SMI) is higher among females than males. AMI affects 25.8% of females and 15.8% of males.  SMI affects 7% of females and 4.2% of males.

It’s important to note most serious mental health conditions cannot be cured, but they can be treated so those affected feel better and live well. The best treatments for SMIs today are highly effective:  between 70% to 90% affected have significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with a combination of pharmacological and psychosocial treatments and supports.

Some mental health conditions occur more often in women and can play a significant role in overall health. These conditions may arise due to biological influences, as female hormonal fluctuations are known to influence mood and depression. Other contributing factors include socio-cultural concerns, where women still struggle with challenges relating to socio-economic power, status, position and dependence while being primary caregivers of children and chronically ill elderly in 80% of elder care situations. Finally, women facing abuse and physical violence are more apt to avoid seeking mental health treatment for fear of personal safety or endangering their children and other household members.

Mental health conditions more common in women include:

  • Depression. Women are twice as likely as men (12% of women compared to 6% of men) to get depression.

  • Anxiety and specific phobias. Although men and women are affected equally by such mental health conditions as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and social phobias, women are twice as likely as men to have panic disorder, generalized anxiety, and specific phobias.

  • Post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD.)  Women are 2 times more likely to develop PTSD following a traumatic event than men.

  • Suicide attempts. Men die from suicide at 4 times the rate that women do, but women attempt suicide 2 to 3 times more often than men.

  • Eating disorders. Women account for at least 85% of all anorexia and bulimia cases and 65% of binge-eating disorder cases.

There are also certain types of disorders that are unique to women. Some women may experience symptoms of mental disorders at times of hormone change, like perinatal depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and perimenopause-related depression.

If you note any recurring changes in your mental health during or after pregnancy, your monthly cycle or are approaching menopause, talk with your local Capital Women’s Care practitioner.

Monitoring Your Mental Health

It’s important to acknowledge and understand your mental health. Prioritize a daily check-in with yourself to contemplate your feelings and thoughts. Keep a daily journal outlining personal thoughts and feelings. Use the information within your journal to help you determine if you need to seek help from a mental health professional.  

Talk to or alert a mental health professional if you or someone you care for experiences the following for 2 weeks:

  • lack of interest in things that were once enjoyed
  • crying spells
  • lack of motivation
  • inability to concentrate
  • significant changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • inability to cope with problems or daily activities
  • more anxiety than usual over events or situations
  • feelings of hopelessness
  • sudden changes in personality for no reason
  • inability to stop thinking about certain ideas or memories
  • sadness that lingers for longer than 2 weeks
  • thoughts about suicide (call 911 if you are in immediate danger)
  • drug and/or alcohol abuse or illegal prescription drug use
  • extreme, volatile mood swings
  • violent behavior or excessive anger or hostility
  • and hearing voices or seeing things that others don’t hear or see.

Enhance Your Mental Health

There are many things you can do to optimize personal mental health. Some mind and body treatments recommended by NAMI include:

  • yoga
  • exercise (aerobic and anaerobic)
  • practicing mindfulness
  • meditation
  • and tai chi.

Additionally, self-help techniques or animal-assisted therapies can help those cope with mental health challenges. Other coping mechanisms can include:

  • noticing tension and taking deep breaths to reduce it
  • being alert for negative thoughts and replacing them with healthy ones
  • setting and maintaining appropriate and healthy boundaries between you and others
  • relaxing with aromatherapy
  • destressing with soothing activities (coloring, listening to music and exercise, to name a few)
  • avoiding destructive behaviors (excess alcohol and illicit/prescription drug abuse)
  • eating healthy meals and snacks
  • getting quality sleep and rest daily
  • finding things that make you grateful
  • and creating little moments of joy in each day.

To achieve mental health and wellbeing, it can be helpful to build a toolbox of strategies and use them regularly. The more you use your coping skills, the better they'll work for you in overcoming difficulties and achieving optimal mental health and wellbeing.

Your Capital Women’s Care team of empathetic, knowledgeable doctors, nurses and support staff is here to answer questions or address your concerns about mental health or any women’s health issue. Our premier health professionals are dedicated to optimizing you and your family’s health, so you can enjoy a long, quality life.

Mental Health Resources:

  • Click here for a free, confidential and anonymous online personal depression screening via Mental Health America on October 6 (National Depression Screening Day) or anytime to initiate the first step toward seeking professional mental health help.

  • NAMI Helpline:  800-950-NAMI. In a crisis, text "NAMI" to 741741

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 or TTY: 1-800-799-4889 – help is available 24/7.

  • For emergency medical help, call 911


Our Mission

The providers of Capital Women's Care seek the highest quality medical and ethical standard in an environment that nurtures the spirit of caring for every woman.


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