THE Mental Health America celebrates National Mental Health Month every May, since 1949. It reaches out to millions in advocating for hope by sharing materials to partners and affiliates, including the Philippine Mental Health Association (PMHA).

This year the theme is addressing mental health disorders before Stage 4. It calls to attention the importance of dealing with symptoms early: mental health concerns should be treated before it reaches the critical stage. It is believed that early detection of any disease, can be managed or, with some even cured.

In cases of debilitating diseases like cancer, diabetes, or heart ailments, one does not wait long before consulting a doctor. One even begins with prevention. So why wait when dealing with a potentially serious mental disorder?

This month, mental health advocates are encouraging everyone to learn the signs of serious mental disorders, ask for help if needed, address symptoms early and plan an appropriate course of action on a path towards overall health. They double their efforts, and emphasized it more this month.

Here are the stages of mental health conditions, according to the Mental Health America:

Stage 1: Mild symptoms and warning signs. A person begins to show symptoms of a mental health condition, but is still able to maintain the ability to function at home, work or school – although perhaps not as easily as before they started to show symptoms. Often, there is a sense that something is “not right.”

Stage 2: Symptoms increase in frequency and severity and interfere with life activities and roles. It usually becomes obvious that something is wrong. A person’s symptoms may become stronger and last longer or new symptoms may start appearing on top of existing ones, creating something of a snowball effect. Performance at work or school will become more difficult, and a person may have trouble keeping up with family duties, social obligations or personal responsibilities.

Stage 3: Symptoms worsen with relapsing and recurring episodes accompanied by serious disruption in life activities and roles. Symptoms have continued to increase in severity and many symptoms are often taking place at the same time. A person may feel as though they are losing control of their life and the ability to fill their roles at home, work or school

Stage 4: Symptoms are persistent and severe and have jeopardized one’s life. The combination of extreme, prolonged and persistent symptoms and impairment often results in development of other health conditions and has the potential to turn into a crisis like unemployment, hospitalization, homelessness or even incarceration. In the worst cases, untreated mental illnesses can lead to loss of life an average of 25 years early.

One of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether one is experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition is to take a mental health screening. You can call PMHA at 433-8868, send an email at pmha_bacolod@yahoo.com.ph or send a message on Facebook.

MHA says that research shows that by ignoring symptoms, we lose 10 years in which we could intervene in order to change people’s lives for the better. During most of these years most people still have supports that allow them to succeed – home, family, friends, school and work.

Intervening effectively during early stages of mental illness can save lives and change the trajectories of people living with mental illness.

Prevention, early identification and intervention, and integrated services work can lead to a better life. When addressing symptoms before Stage 4, people can recover quickly and live full and productive lives.

Remember: Get informed. Get screened. Get help.