Mental Health & Well-Being

Changing Direction and Thinking on Mental Health and Well-being

America is at a crossroads when it comes to how society addresses mental health. One in five citizens have a diagnosable mental health condition.

The Campaign to Change Direction initiative is a collection of concerned citizens, nonprofit leaders, and leaders from the private sector who have come together to change the culture about mental health, mental illness, and wellness.

Regional prevention coalitions across the State have adopted this program to offer information on how to recognize the signs of emotional distress and direct people to local resources.

Changing Direction and Thinking on Mental Health and Well-being

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), mental disorders are common in the United States and internationally as well.

  • An estimated 5 million Americans ages 18 and older — about one in five adults — experience a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. (SAMHSA 2014)
  • One-half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, three-quarters by age 24. (NIMH 2005)
  • According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 20 to 25 percent of homeless people in the US has some form of severe mental illness. (SAMHSA 2009)
  • In 2011, more people died by suicide in the US (39,518) than in motor vehicle crashes (32,367).  (CDC 2011; NHTSA 2011 Annual Report File)
  • For youth between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death. (NAMI 2011)

Five Signs of Emotional Suffering

There is a simple pledge that anyone can do. Learn the Five Signs of emotional suffering so you can recognize them in yourself or help a loved one who may be in emotional pain. Often our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even family members are suffering emotionally and don’t recognize the symptoms or won’t ask for help.

The Five Signs that may mean someone is in emotional pain and might need help are:

1. Personality changes.  You may notice sudden or gradual changes in the way that someone typically behaves. People in this situation may behave in ways that don’t seem to fit their values, or the person may just seem different.

2. Uncharacteristically angry, anxious, agitated, or moody.  You may notice the person has more frequent problems controlling his or her temper and seems irritable or unable to calm down.
People in more extreme situations of this kind may be unable to sleep or may explode
in anger at a minor problem.

3. Withdrawal or isolation from other people.  Someone who used to be socially engaged may pull away from family and friends and stop taking part in activities that used to be enjoyable. In more severe cases the person may start failing to make it to work or school. Not to be confused with the behavior of someone who is more introverted, this sign is marked by a change in a person’s typical sociability, as when someone pulls away from the social support typically available.

4. May neglect self-care and engage in risky behavior.  You may notice a change in the person’s level of personal care or an act of poor judgment. For instance, someone may let personal hygiene deteriorate, or the person may start abusing alcohol or illicit substances or engaging in other self-destructive behavior that may alienate loved ones.

5. Overcome with hopelessness and overwhelmed by circumstances.  Have you noticed someone who used to be optimistic and now can’t find anything to be hopeful about? That person may be suffering from extreme or prolonged grief, or feelings of worthlessness or guilt. People in this situation may say that the world would be better off without them, suggesting suicidal thinking..

Helping Someone Else or Yourself

If someone you know is struggling emotionally or having a hard time,  you can be the difference in getting them the help they need. It’s important to take care of yourself when you are supporting someone through a difficult time, as this may stir up difficult emotions. If it does, please don’t hesitate to reach out for support for yourself.

Learn more at

Never keep it a secret if a friend tells you about a plan to hurt themselves. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to find out what resources are available in your area, or encourage your loved one to call.