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National Women’s Health Week: What’s Mental Health Got to Do With It?

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By Nicole Greene,
Acting Director of the
Office on Women’s Health,
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

As women, we’re often the caretakers of our families. We make sure everyone is happy and healthy and has what they need to succeed. But putting everyone else first can take a toll on our health.

That’s why I’m calling on women to prioritize and take steps for better health during National Women’s Health Week. Starting on May 14 (Mother’s Day), it’s a week dedicated to us, our health and how we can feel better from the inside out. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health encourages every woman to eat well, make time to be physically active and see the doctor for a well-woman visit.

As we begin to celebrate National Women’s Health week, I want to focus your attention on another area of our health that we often overlook: mental health.  Good mental health is an important part of our overall health, but it’s too often at the bottom of, or even missing from, our health to-do lists. In 2015, one in five women in the U.S. experienced a mental illness. That likely means you or someone you know has been affected by a mental illness in their lifetime. But so many of us don’t seek help because we’re afraid of being labeled or stigmatized.

Here’s the good news: There are simple things each of us can do to improve our mental health by making small changes in our daily lives and habits. Remember the ideas I shared earlier about getting healthy for National Women’s Health Week? Well, they can improve your mental health, too! Eating healthy, including limiting the amount of fat, sugar, salt, and alcohol in your diet, can affect your energy level and mood. Getting regular physical activity can help you sleep better (at least seven to eight hours a night) and manage stress, all of which can help improve your mental health.

We can’t talk about mental health without addressing stress. You may be stressed for many reasons, like a traumatic event, the death of a loved one or just dealing with the daily demands of a hectic life. While stress is a natural response, too much can negatively impact your physical and mental health. If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, talk to a health care provider. There are also many organizations and resources available if you need help finding a health care professional, or just need someone to talk to. This is particularly the case if you are also experiencing any form of violence. You are not alone on your journey to be healthier, happier and safer.

This week, I urge you to talk to your mother, daughters, sisters, friends or co-workers about good mental health. We’re healthier together and it only takes one conversation to move forward on your path to better health.

If you’re looking for more information to help you get these conversations started, check out womenshealth.gov/nwhw.

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