When you or someone you love is dealing with a mental health concern, sometimes it’s a lot to handle. It’s important to remember that mental health is essential to everyone’s overall health and well-being, and that mental illnesses are common and treatable.

People experience symptoms of mental illnesses differently, and some engage in potentially dangerous or risky behaviors to avoid or cover up symptoms of a potential mental health problem. That’s why this year’s May Is Mental Health Month is themed around raising awareness about risky behaviors that increase the risk of developing or exacerbating mental illnesses — or that could be signs of mental health problems themselves.

These are activities such as:

  • compulsive sex

  • recreational drug use

  • obsessive internet use

  • excessive spending

  • or disordered exercise patterns

These can all be behaviors that can disrupt someone’s mental health and potentially lead them down a path toward crisis.

Path to recovery

We want everyone to know that mental illnesses are real, that recovery is always the goal and that even if you or someone you love is engaging in risky behavior, there is help. It is important to understand early symptoms of mental illness and know when certain behaviors are potentially signs of something more.

We need to speak up early and educate people about risky behavior and its connection to mental illness — and do so in a compassionate, judgment-free way.

When we engage in prevention and early identification, we can help reduce the burden of mental illness by identifying symptoms and warning signs early, and provide effective treatment before symptoms become severe.

So, let’s talk about what is and is not risky behavior. Let’s understand where it’s important to draw the line, so that we can address mental illness before symptoms become persistent and life-threatening, and help others on the road to recovery.