Mental Health Month is a reminder to take action year-round

May is Mental Health Month. It’s the perfect time to think about the importance of brain health (mental health) and to take action year-round to maintain it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes mental health as our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act and helps determine how we handle stress and relate to others. Brain health issues are much more common than you may think:

  • More than 20% of U.S. adults live with mental illness.
  • More than 20% of U.S. teens currently, or at some point in their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental illness.
  • Around 7% of U.S. adults lives with a serious mental illness, such schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression.

According to the CDC, people can sometimes experience different brain health illnesses at the same time. Brain health illnesses can occur over short periods of time or be long lasting. The CDC lists more than 200 brain health illnesses and disorders.

There are a number of risk factors for brain health illnesses, such as:

  • Adverse childhood experiences, such as abuse, sexual assault or other trauma.
  • Experiences related to other ongoing medical conditions, such as cancer or diabetes.
  • Biological factors or chemical imbalances in the brain.
  • Alcohol and drug use.
  • Feelings of loneliness or isolation.

The good news is that treatment works. There are also some simple things you can do each day to help maintain your brain health. The CDC lists these ideas to help cope with everyday stresses:

  • Take breaks from social media and news.
  • Eat healthy.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Move more and sit less.
  • Limit alcohol intake and avoid using illegal drugs.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Take time for yourself.
  • Connect with others.
  • Continue regular health appointments and screenings with your physician.

As part of Mental Health Awareness Month, May 18 is Mental Health Action Day. It’s a day to take one hour for yourself, your loved ones and your community. Prioritize self-care and take time to recharge. Self-care is not selfish. Help spread the word to support brain health in your community. And remember that taking care of your brain heath is a year-round effort.

If you or another person in your life is experiencing negative brain health, Iowa Mental Health and Disability Services (MHDS) is a partner in connecting Iowans of all ages with professionals who can help. Iowa MHDS Regions work with care providers across the state to ensure you’re not alone when it comes to addressing concerns with brain health, personal well-being and more. A range of affordable, well-organized and high-quality health services are available for you, wherever and whenever you need them.

With several regions around the state, locating a brain health expert is just a call or click away: visit or call the Your Life Iowa line at 855-581-8111.