National Alliance on Mental Illness
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FAQs about Wellness and Mental Illness
How do I take all of this information in?
Having to worry about more than one thing is difficult, but it is crucial to educate yourself about heart risks. The more you know, the more you can modify specific risks to increase your odds of living a long and full life. NAMI Hearts & Minds proceeds with the belief that knowledge is power and that even small changes in your choices can help improve your life. Certainly, living with mental illness is quite a challenge for some people already. NAMI Hearts & Minds offers a wealth of information. You do not need to figure this all out at once-NAMI Hearts & Minds will show you how to take it one step at a time. You are worthy of a happy, healthy and long life. Knowing the risks will help you make informed choices that can make that happen. When you are ready to work on one of these areas, focus and get going.
I heard that people who live with serious mental illness live, on average, 25 years less than other Americans. Is this is scary statistic really true?
To some extent, yes. This 25-year loss-of-life number is a sobering wake-up call, but averages do not have to dictate your health or outcome. You could live to a very ripe old age if you make good choices and seek out and demand the best care available to you.
A report of state data from the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD) showed that, on average, people living with serious mental illness live 25 years less than other Americans. The report counted all causes of death-including suicides, accidents and medical risks. Overall, a great deal of the medical risk was due to heart disease.
The data and report helped clarify that the American mental health community has a public health emergency that we must work to address at every level-from the individual making choices to the medical education community to public policy leadership-in order to promote better models of care integration and access to culturally adequate services.
I quit smoking, unsuccessfully, six times already! Is it really possible for me to ever quit?
Patience, focus and finding what works for you are key elements of change. Not all change happens quickly, and sometimes a new process takes practice. The fact that you have already tried to quit six times shows that you are actively working on the problem. Recognizing that quitting smoking is important is the first step.
Learn the triggers that cause you to restart smoking and see if there is a new strategy you can try to make your next attempt even better. Quitting smoking is the single greatest health change any one person can make; for more information, visit the Heart & Minds section on smoking cessation.
Are there any quick fixes? I struggle with my weight and I smoke, and I try to stay away from the doctor's office as much as I can.
Unfortunately, no. There is no quick fix.
Making smart daily choices is the key to better health. Lifestyle choices have been found to be the single most important factor in determining your pattern of general health. It isn't easy, but it is important that recognize areas for improvement and set healthy lifestyle goals. Very few people have no unhealthy behaviors. Be gentle with yourself-see if you can pick one area to work on and go for it!
I doubt I can do any of this alone. What about peer support? Could that help with all of this?
Peer support is an important aspect of individual recovery. It is a great way to help you get the support you need to improve your health. There are a lot of ways to draw support from our community. NAMI Hearts & Minds can be integrated as part of your activities in other NAMI programs, including NAMI Connection, NAMI Family-to-Family, NAMI Basics, NAMI Peer-to-Peer and even NAMIWalks. There are many online communities and message boards-many free-where you can find support for all aspects of wellness, from weight loss to smoking cessation. You may also be of tremendous help to others to provide support to another person.
One member from Concord, N.H., shared this story of her success--
"I lost over 100 pounds using peer support on peertrainer.com. We identified ourselves as living with a mental illness and supported and coached each other to help our daily choices. It made a big difference."
How can I face setting big goals and improve on my follow-through?
The first step in setting your lifestyle goals in the NAMI Hearts & Mind program is to get educated! Explore our Web site and learn about all the important dimensions of a healthy life. Then work at something you feel you are ready to change-or close to changing-already. Perhaps increasing your water intake or taking a short walk on your lunch break are things you have thought about doing. Now is the time to do them!
Goal-setting can be helpful because it allows you to identify exactly what you want to achieve and how you will achieve it. Goals will help you recognize where you have to concentrate your efforts. Remember that change does not come overnight, and that there are stages in any human change process.
The Stages of Change model shows that a change in behavior occurs gradually, with an individual moving from being uninterested, unaware or unwilling to make a change (precontemplation), to considering a change (contemplation), to deciding and preparing to make a change. Genuine, determined action is then taken and, over time, a person begins to maintain the new behavior.
The following guidelines will help you set effective goals.
Here are two examples of well-defined goals:
When you have achieved a goal, celebrate it. You may want to reward yourself by doing something that is meaningful to you. Take the time to reflect on what you have achieved and how it has benefitted your health. With the experience of having achieved your first goal, review how it went. Reviewing the process will help you develop your next goal or set of goals. A few things to consider are:
Remember that your goals will change as your health improves and you become more physically fit. Adjust them regularly to reflect your improvements.