Mental Health

The South Dakota Department of Health is committed to providing mental health resources and reducing mental health inequities among youth and young adults. The resources below offer answers to why mental health is important and how to access local South Dakota resources.

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Mental health is an important part of overall health and well-being. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

What Causes Mental Health Problems?

There is no single cause for mental illness. A number of factors can contribute to risk for mental illness, such as:

  • Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
  • Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
  • Family history of mental health problems

Barriers to Mental Health Care Can Be:

  • Cost
  • Lack of access to specialized providers
  • Lack of insurance coverage
  • Long waiting lists

Early Warning Signs of Mental Health Problems:

  • Eating too much or too little, which can develop into an eating disorder
  • Sleeping too much or too little o Having low or no energy
  • Feeling numb
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless
  • Using smoking, drinking, and drugs as a coping mechanism
  • Thinking of harming yourself
  • Having mood swings
  • Feeling confused, forgetful, angry, upset, worried, or scared

Learn more about specific mental health problems.

Here are some ways to improve your mental health:

  • Get regular exercise. It only takes 30 minutes of walking every day to help boost your mood and improve your health. Don't get discouraged if you can't do 30 minutes at one time, small amounts of exercise add up.
  • Eat healthy, regular meals, and stay hydrated. A balanced diet and plenty of water can improve your energy and focus throughout the day.
  • Make sleep a priority. Make sure you're getting enough sleep by sticking to a schedule. Reducing blue light exposure from screens and devices before bedtime can make it easier to fall asleep.
  • Try a relaxing activity. Explore meditation, muscle relaxation, or breathing exercises via wellness programs or apps and schedule regular times for these and other healthy activities.
  • Set goals and priorities. Decide what must get done now and what can wait. Say “no” to new tasks if you start to feel like you’re taking on too much. Focus on what you've accomplished, not what you were unable to get done.

For more information: Caring for Your Mental Health (National Institute of Mental Health)

What is Mental Health Stigma?

Stigma is when someone sees you in a negative way because of a particular characteristic or attribute (such as skin color, cultural background, disability, or mental illness). When someone treats you in a negative way because of your mental illness, this is discrimination.

Stigma happens when a person defines someone by their illness rather than who they are as an individual. For example, they might be labeled 'psychotic' rather than 'a person experiencing psychosis'.

For people with mental health issues, the social stigma and discrimination they experience can make their problems worse, making it harder to recover. It may cause the person to avoid getting the help they need because of the fear of being stigmatized.

Overcoming Stigma

Here are some ways you can deal with stigma:

  • Get treatment. You may be reluctant to admit you need treatment. Don't let the fear of being labeled with a mental illness prevent you from seeking help. Treatment can provide relief by identifying what's wrong and reducing symptoms that interfere with your work and personal life.
  • Don't let stigma create self-doubt and shame. Stigma doesn't just come from others. You may mistakenly believe that your condition is a sign of personal weakness or that you should be able to control it without help. Seeking counseling, educating yourself about your condition, and connecting with others who have mental illness can help you gain self-esteem and overcome destructive self-judgment.
  • Don't isolate yourself. If you have a mental illness, you may be reluctant to tell anyone about it. Your family, friends, clergy, or members of your community can offer support if they know about your mental illness. Reach out to people you trust for the compassion, support, and understanding you need.
  • Don't equate yourself with your illness. You are not an illness. So instead of saying "I'm bipolar," say "I have bipolar disorder." Instead of calling yourself "a schizophrenic," say "I have schizophrenia."
  • Join a support group. Some local and national groups, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), offer local programs and internet resources that help reduce stigma by educating people who have mental illnesses, their families, and the general public. Some state and federal agencies and programs, such as those that focus on vocational rehabilitation and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), offer support for people with mental illness.
  • Get help at school. If you or your child has a mental illness that affects learning, find out what plans and programs might help. Discrimination against students because of mental illness is against the law, and educators at primary, secondary, and college levels are required to accommodate students as best they can. Talk to teachers, professors, or administrators about the best approach and resources. If a teacher doesn't know about a student's disability, it can lead to discrimination, barriers to learning, and poor grades.
  • Speak out against stigma. Consider expressing your opinions at events, in letters to the editor, or on the Internet. It can help instill courage in others facing similar challenges and educate the public about mental illness.

More information: Mental health: Overcoming the stigma of mental illness (Mayo Clinic)

Mental Health Myths and Facts

Fact: Mental health issues can affect anyone. In 2020, about:

  • One in 5 American adults experienced a mental health condition in a given year
  • One in 6 young people have experienced a major depressive episode
  • One in 20 Americans have lived with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression

Fact: Even very young children may show early warning signs of mental health concerns. These mental health conditions are often clinically diagnosable and can be a product of the interaction of biological, psychological, and social factors.

Fact: Most people with mental health conditions are no more likely to be violent than anyone else.

Fact: People with mental health conditions can be just as productive as other employees, especially when they are able to manage their mental health condition well.

Fact: Mental health conditions have nothing to do with being lazy or weak and many people need help to get better. Many factors contribute to mental health conditions, including:

  • Biological factors, such as genes, physical illness, injury, or brain chemistry
  • Life experiences, such as trauma or a history of abuse
  • Family history of mental health conditions

People with mental health conditions can get better and many seek recovery support.

Fact: Studies show that people with mental health conditions get better and many are on a path to recovery. There are more treatments, services, and community support systems than ever before, and they work.

Fact: Treatment for mental health conditions vary depending on the individual and could include medication, therapy, or both.

Fact: Friends and loved ones can make a big difference. Friends and family can be important influences to help someone get the treatment and services they need.