The month of May is national Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. With mental illness impacting millions of people throughout the world, it’s likely you or someone you know is living with one or more conditions affecting thinking, feeling, mood, or behavior.
Unfortunately, people with mental illness often face discrimination, stigma, and a lack of professional support for their mental health. Though mental health awareness is essential all year long, many organizations join together in May to advocate for improving the nation’s mental health care system.
Especially if you are living with a rare disease like pulmonary fibrosis, you may be struggling with ways to cope. Along with these difficulties, you may experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions. Mental health affects every aspect of life, including but not limited to decision-making, problem solving, and the way we approach work, family, relationships, and more.
We’ve always believed that supporting mental health is an important way to fight PF. Because of this, our mission incorporates all treatments for PF – including natural, supplemental, and alternative therapies for physical and mental health. Also, our research utilizes metrics on quality of life. Even though it’s common to struggle before and after receiving a PF diagnosis, our community has shown that there are meaningful ways to reduce symptoms, improve quality of life, and take control of all aspects of personal health and wellness.
If you have PF and are living with mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar, you are not alone. Here are six ways to increase awareness about mental health and self-advocate as you fight PF:
- Educate yourself. We have a long list of educational articles incorporating the topics of mental health and PF: https://pulmonaryfibrosisnow.org/tag/mental-health/. Many people also appreciate visiting our myth-busting blog and FAQs about PF. As you explore our site, please feel free to reach out with any questions!
- Do your own research. For tips on finding published research, visit https://pulmonaryfibrosisnow.org/2022/03/31/finding-published-research/. To better understand and interpret research publications, review our guide at https://pulmonaryfibrosisnow.org/2021/10/17/understanding-research-publications/. PF NOW! also has several research publications available to view here.
- Keep track of your symptoms. Hopefully you won’t face any stigma or judgments when you reach out to health professionals – but just in case, it’s helpful to have documentation of your experiences and concerns. There are many additional benefits to recordkeeping, and we have tips and templates for getting started in part 1, part 2, and part 3 of the recordkeeping series.
- Find the right care. There are many kinds of healthcare professionals who help people with PF, such as pulmonologists, respiratory therapists, and lung transplant surgeons. Similarly, many professionals specialize in mental health. This includes social workers, therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists. For advocacy tips related to finding the right care, please visit https://pulmonaryfibrosisnow.org/category/right-care/. If you have any trusted professionals on your team, please add them to our resource list. Don’t hesitate to get creative – your team of people fighting PF could include chiropractors, acupuncturists, nutritionists, yoga teachers, meditation instructors, and more.
- Determine a treatment plan. There are many treatment options for PF, including natural therapies and additional ways to improve your health. Please speak with your doctor to decide what’s best for you. Throughout your fight against PF, remember there are several tools and techniques to assist with mental health. This includes mindfulness, meditation, and breathing exercises.
- Connect with community. It can be very helpful to find people who understand what you’re going through, and who listen with open minds and hearts. To meet with people face-to-face, please attend our next support group meetup on Zoom: https://pulmonaryfibrosisnow.org/sign-up-form/ . To find people online, please visit our main Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pulmonaryfibrosisNOW and join our community forum at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1198991686930106. For an ongoing stream of positive messages on mental health and PF, follow us on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/fightpfnow/.
Please spread the word that May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and comment below with your favorite ways to fight PF right now!