Monthly Dose > Volume 17 | May 2022
ASTHMA AWARENESS MONTH
Why does my asthma flare up in the spring?
Asthma is a chronic lung disease causing difficulty breathing. It is characterized by airway inflammation, constriction or tightening of the airways and excess mucus production. Symptoms of asthma include coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and feeling short of breath. These symptoms are generally caused by asthma triggers, things in the environment that affect the airways making it difficult to breathe. For some, seasonal allergies may trigger asthma symptoms, which is why they find their asthma seems worse during the spring.
“Everyone loves spring. Well, almost everyone. I dread it when daylight savings time comes, the trees start turning green and the birds start chirping. We know what comes next.
This year started out in January with asthma that hasn’t let up.”
-Living with Asthma Community Member
Many potential asthma triggers can be found inside your home and at work. An asthma trigger is any substance, environmental factor or physical condition that causes asthma symptoms. Many people with asthma can have more than one trigger and asthma triggers can vary from person to person. Some triggers that can be found in the air that you breathe include dust, pet dander, strong odors and chemicals, and smoke, including from cigarettes and fireplaces or even candles. Asthma triggers can also be found in the work environment due to exposure to certain irritants and allergens that can cause asthma symptoms.
Understanding how these triggers may affect your asthma is important in managing your asthma and keeping it under control. The American Lung Association has many resources available to help you manage your asthma at home and work, including a free online course, Asthma Basics.
How does asthma affect you?
Take our asthma survey to let us know about your experiences with asthma.
MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH
It’s time to get back to basics
Since the start of the pandemic, more and more people are talking about mental health. There is growing recognition that it is an important component of your overall health and well-being, just like your physical health. But mental health conditions, resources, and conversations can still feel complicated and out of reach. Too often our society overlooks mental health and focuses much more on physical health, but both are important. In fact, the delays in treatment for mental health conditions are longer than for many other health conditions. While you may not need this information today, knowing the basics about mental health will mean you’re prepared if you ever need it. Inspire partner Mental Health America provides free, practical resources on topics such as recognizing warning signs, knowing the factors that can lead to mental health conditions, maintaining mental wellness, and seeking help for mental health. Go to mhanational.org/may to learn more.
CHRONIC, CANCER, AND RARE DISEASES AWARENESS MONTHS
See how our partners are advocating for these health conditions
Many diseases and conditions have national health observances that take place during the month of May. Here’s a round up of Inspire partners that are working to raise awareness this month and how you can get involved.
- May is Lupus Awareness Month. Help Make Lupus Visible by sharing about lupus with friends and family, on social media, and by wearing purple for World Lupus Day on May 10. Learn more about how to get involved and join the conversation here.
- May is Melanoma Awareness Month. Melanoma, the most serious skin cancer, affects 100,000 people each year in the United States. With the Melanoma Exchange community on Inspire, people affected by melanoma are never alone. Learn more about melanoma at CureMelanoma.org including information about treatment options, early detection, resources for people recently diagnosed, ways to keep yourself and those you love sun safe, & more!
- This May, Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation (BHOF) commemorates Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month (OAPM) by showcasing bone healthy exercises for everyone. Access BHOF’s OAPM Resource Hub and Digital Calendar and join the conversation here.
- Join the American Lung Association May 8-14 for LUNG FORCE’s annual Turquoise Takeover celebration. Turquoise Takeover unites the nation to raise critical awareness of lung cancer, the nation’s leading cancer killer. You can also join the conversation here.
- During the month of May, the Bladder Cancer Advocacy (BCAN) hosts a variety of awareness events and Walks to End Bladder Cancer all over the country. Learn more and sign up at www.bcanwalk.org and join the conversation here.
- During Brain Tumor Awareness Month, the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA) wants to connect the brain tumor community with resources, including “Five Things to Do If You or a Loved One is Diagnosed with a Brain Tumor” in the May issue of MindMatters. Follow the ABTA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and join the conversation here.
- May 15-21, 2022 is National Eosinophil Awareness Week. Learn more and get involved and join the conversation here.
- May is Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS) and Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders (HSD) Awareness Month. Help raise vital awareness, globally, by completing a challenge during the month of May and join the conversation here.
- May is National Myositis Awareness Month and this year Myositis Support and Understanding (MSU) will focus on giving voice to the community. For details, be sure you are a registered member of Myositis Support and Understanding to receive emails when dates and times are added to the events calendar and join the conversation here.
- May is Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC) Awareness Month in the United States, and May 15 is TSC Global Awareness Day worldwide. Sign up for the May 14-15 20th Anniversary Step Forward to Cure TSC® Global Hybrid Run-Walk-Ride. To learn more, visit tscalliance.org, follow @tscalliance, and join the conversation here.
- Join the Sturge-Weber Foundation (SWF) for SWF Month of Awareness this May. Head over to our official SWF Month of Awareness page to check out ways to get involved, download social media graphics to share, and help spread awareness about SWS, KT, PWS, seizures, and glaucoma. Join the conversation here.
4 Ways to Help a Loved One With a Mental Health Condition
Mental health conditions affect 1 in 5 Americans every year. That’s approximately 44 million Americans. These conditions affect more than the diagnosed individuals. The illness poses special challenges for their family members and loved ones. If someone you love has a mental health condition, these tips can help you support them, while also making sure you don’t neglect your own mental health needs.
From the community: “My husband suffers from Major Depression, Anxiety, Substance Abuse and has been diagnosed with Bi Polar condition. We have been together for approx 8 years and the side effects of his conditions above, set in approx 4 years ago after a “mental breakdown”… I am here looking for support, not only for him but for myself. I feel that I can’t continue putting my well being on the back burner however, I just don’t know what else to do because I care about his well being. In the past we have seen counselors and he has been seeing the same primary care physician for the past 5 years. In the beginning things progressed well… Finding help is not easy especially living in a small town. My husband also has an issue with Self sabotage and tends to derail the progress, in which my reaction is to pick up the pieces. I’m tired.. and beginning to feel hopeless… The last few years have been very difficult and I’m finding myself starting to spiral as well. I don’t have the confidence that I once had, my happiness levels have dropped and I can say without a doubt that I am depressed. I feel that my marriage is failing but I also feel that I can’t leave this amazing person in the state that he is, when I promised to be here for him, for the rest of our lives…” – Inspire member
What is a mental health disorder?
There are more than 200 different types of mental health conditions. These illnesses affect a person’s thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. Some of the more common ones include:
- anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and phobias
- mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder
- psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorders, and paranoia and delusional disorders
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which causes hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive behaviors
- eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder
Steps to support a loved one with a mental health condition
Watching a loved one struggle with a mental health condition can make you feel powerless. You can’t take away the diagnosis, cure the illness, or force someone to continue treatments if they’re unwilling. But you can provide them with love and support, while loving and supporting yourself along the way. Start by taking these actions:
- learn more about the mental health condition
- get help for yourself
- become a better listener
- find healthy ways to manage stress
Learn more about the mental health condition
Education is vital to helping your loved one and yourself. The more you know and understand about the mental health condition, the better you can serve as that person’s advocate and supporter. While there’s lots of information online, it’s important to remember that mental health conditions affect everyone differently. Some people may have mild, more manageable symptoms, while others may have severe issues that require a variety of medications and treatments.
The best way to find out how a specific condition uniquely affects your loved one is by talking with their doctor (usually a psychiatrist) and their mental health counselor (usually a psychologist, social worker, or other licensed mental health professional). The federal Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (more commonly known as HIPAA) protects the privacy of patients. In order for a doctor or therapist to share information with you about your loved one’s care, you’ll need the patient’s signed consent.
Attending some sessions with your loved one, or doing separate family counseling with a different therapist, can also be beneficial for everyone involved. These sessions provide a safe space for your loved one to share how their illness, as well as your actions, affect them, and it gives you the opportunity to do the same.
From the community: “It just keeps getting worse. My wife keeps hearing voices and noises and is paranoid about all kinds of things. She seemingly cannot see that it’s in her brain and that she desperately needs help. How did you get the help you needed or get your loved one help? She never threatens any harm to herself or others so I cannot get her involuntarily hospitalized.” – Inspire member
Get help for yourself
While family counseling with your loved one is beneficial, it’s also helpful for you to have your own therapist. These sessions provide a safe space for you to vent frustrations without worrying about hurting your loved one’s feelings. You’ll also learn strategies to help you cope with your loved one’s behaviors and the stress that accompanies them.
You can also benefit from having a trusted family member or friend that you can turn to in times of need. If you’re not comfortable sharing details about a private family matter, consider joining an in-person or online support group for loved ones affected by mental illness. Both patients and their loved ones can connect with others on Mental Health America’s mental health support group and community on Inspire.
From the community: “…dealing with a suicidal son (19 with bipolar). His gf of 2 years broke up with him last Friday out of the blue and he is unconsolable. He was hospitalized for 5 days and seemed to be doing better the first 3 days out and the past two have been awful. Crying uncontrollably. Anger. Hitting himself. Saying all he wants to do is die so that the pain stops. He’s on meds and did talk to his therapist… today he is saying he won’t talk to anymore therapists, quitting his job, and just wants to be left alone. Watching him suffer this way is killing me. I cant seem to do anything right and he is constantly threatening to leave because he is “an adult and can leave whenever he wants”. I just feel so alone & scared & quite frankly grossly under qualified to deal with this.” – Inspire member
Become a better listener
Listening is a learned skill that takes time, patience, and practice to master. It’s understandable to want to rush in and help your loved one by offering advice. Yet, most people are looking for someone to simply listen to them without trying to solve their problems (besides, their condition isn’t something you can fix).
These steps can help you improve your listening skills:
- Listen to understand: Avoid reactive listening, which means you start formulating counterpoints or arguments before the person is done speaking. Instead, focus on understanding their point of view.
- Practice reflective listening: This communication strategy involves repeating a thought or idea back to your loved one to show that you understand them. You might say something like, “Let me see if I have this right. Are you saying…?” or “How does that make you feel?”
- Don’t interrupt or criticize: Let the person finish their thoughts, even if you disagree with what they’re saying.
- Try not to take criticisms personally: As hard as it is to hear someone criticize your actions, accepting the person’s comments and not having a hostile reaction can go a long way toward keeping communication open and validating that person’s feelings. Try to remember how frustrated your loved one must feel and know that they may be placing blame on you because they know you will always be there for them.
- Ask questions: In a nonjudgmental way, try to understand why your loved one has certain thoughts or reactions. It helps to express empathy for what the person is going through.
From the community: “I’ve been on and off in a relationship with a loved one who has depression. We found out only two years ago about a brain tumor that caused this. On top of that there has been a lot of emotional damage caused by his family growing up which only added to his depression and anxiety. When he was diagnosed with depression I did everything I could to learn about it and help… I keep believing in his healing… I hate this mental health illness for everyone because I see what it can do to people and those who love them.” – Inspire member
Find healthy ways to manage stress
Many mental health conditions are lifelong. While treatments like medications and counseling can ease symptoms, some behaviors can persist. Plus, it’s not uncommon for people with certain mental conditions to stop taking medication. More than half of people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder don’t think they’re sick. This false belief about their condition is known as anosognosia. Because they don’t think they’re ill, they stop their medication, often without telling anyone. Sometimes people go off a drug because they don’t like the side effects or how the medicine makes them feel. Stopping a medication causes a relapse of symptoms.
It’s emotionally and physically exhausting to live with the constant worry that a loved one won’t follow through with treatment, or may harm themselves or others. It’s important for you to step away from the situation, when possible. If you can’t get away physically, find healthy ways to manage stress like:
- practicing meditation, mindfulness, or breathing exercises
- focusing on a hobby like painting, gardening, or baking
- being physically active by walking, biking, swimming, or doing yoga
- escaping by listening to music, watching a funny movie, or reading a book
- going out with friends and family
“Keep your face always toward the sunshine, and shadows will fall behind you.”
– Walt Whitman