Day 1 of National Public Health Week: Behavioral Health

National Public Health Week begins today! Today’s theme is behavioral health and we are kicking off the week focusing on anxiety disorders.

Feeling anxiety is a normal yet temporary reaction to stressful events in daily life.  But feeling anxious on a daily basis may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.  Anxiety disorders are a group of mental illnesses that are characterized by extreme and chronic anxiety that could seriously affect daily life activities.[i]

Here are a few facts:

  1. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States. An estimated 40 million adults in the U.S. (18%) have an anxiety disorder. Meanwhile, one in eight children are affected by anxiety disorders. Most people develop symptoms before the age of 21.[ii]
  2. Types of anxiety disorders may include: generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorders, phobia, agoraphobia (fear/avoidance of places and situations), social anxiety disorder (social phobia), separation anxiety, and selective mutism (childhood disorder where child is unable to speak/communicate in certain social situations or settings).[iii]
  3. Although anxiety disorders vary in severity, if not properly managed, they may increase the risk of low performance in daily activities and development of severe health problems such as depression, drug abuse, social isolation, and Physical complications may include hypertension, diabetes, gastrointestinal disease (i.e. peptic ulcer), and sexual dysfunction.[iv]
  4. Anxiety can be prevented by identifying causes of stress, learning strategies to cope with stress, seeking help to receive adequate treatment and prevent worsening of symptoms (e. talk therapy, etc.)

WellShare’s The Young Achievers (TYA) is a community-based program, now in its 15th year. The program consists of after-school programs as well as an in-school “WellShare Wellness Class” for Somali and other East African youth.  A main component of TYA is making sure the youth feel like they have a place where they can truly belong — a place where they know they are welcome to share their emotions and experiences, whatever they are, without being judged.

TYA builds lifetime skills, so stress management, anger management and anxiety are topics covered in our sessions. Facilitators go through scenarios that the youth are familiar with to get their full engagement and interest. This is because practicing empathy is the best way to get our youth to start being introspective, get them to trust the group and start talking about their own lives. The groups discuss dealing with similar stressful situations, panic attacks, practice techniques for coping with stress and anxiety and discuss the importance of learning how to find a safe space, both mentally and physically.

References

[i] https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/anxiety-disorders#1

[ii] https://www.nami.org/learn-more/mental-health-conditions/anxiety-disorders

[iii] https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/anxiety-disorders/what-are-anxiety-disorders

[iv] https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11874-stress

 

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