We often hear the term “mental health” used in reference to conditions such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and schizophrenia. But really, “mental health” refers to our overall emotional, psychological, and social well-being, both in and outside the context of named conditions, according to MentalHealth.gov, a resource curated by the U.S. government.
Our mental health impacts how we think, feel, and behave; it shapes how we perceive the world, make decisions, and handle stress when it comes our way.
Experts told Live Science a few ways that everyone can check in with their mental health on a daily basis. They also emphasized that no one should be ashamed or scared to seek help from friends, family, or mental health professionals when times are tough.
It was the Fourth of July, so of course there would be fireworks. Des Cortes was dreading it. After five and a half years in the Navy that included deployments in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Djibouti, Cortes knew the sound of explosions would trigger her. As the light display crackled across the sky that night in 2017 she stood in a Tin Hut BBQ truck on an air force base in Honolulu, struggling to count out the night’s receipts. “I couldn’t focus on what I was doing,” Cortes says. “I completely shut down.”
Fortunately her boss, Frank Diaz, was by her side–as he had been since she’d texted him about a job. PTSD had forced Cortes, at age 24, into early retirement from the military. Unable to find work, she’d been couch surfing with friends or living out of her car. Diaz, the founder of Tin Hut, hired her by text five minutes after she reached out and trained her one-on-one. Over the next two years he helped Cortes sign up for benefits and therapy through the Veteran’s Administration, found her temporary housing, and taught her to budget her money so she could move into her own apartment.
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Soldiers and veterans looking to alleviate the devastating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder might soon have a new way to help themselves. Strangely, it involves using their gray matter to control a videogame.
The process is known as neurofeedback, or NF, and it’s the latest in a long, increasingly out-there list of potential PTSD remedies — from neck injections to memory-zapping drugs — being studied by military researchers. This week, scientists at San Diego’s Naval Medical Center announced plans for a clinical trial on 80 patients, designed to compare neurofeedback with a sham control procedure. The trial, the first of its kind, is meant to determine whether or not NF can avail soldiers of symptoms like nightmares, anxiety attacks and flashbacks.
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