By gina toothakerSpecial to the Herald TimesRBC I Did you know?n Mental illness affects one in five Americans?n Nearly half of those affected do not seek treatment?n Mental health problems are real, common and as treatable as many physical illnesses?May is mental health month and for the next four weeks we are taking this opportunity to present information about some mental health problems we all may deal with at some point in our lives. Caring for your mind, as well as your body, is good for your overall health and key to your success at home, at work and at school.Mental health problems include more than depression and anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress, ADHD or other diagnoses you may be familiar with. These problems also include workplace stress, anger management, substance abuse and family and relationship problems, just to name a few. For those who choose to seek help for these problems, the results can be dramatic. These people are usually able to return to a high level of functioning and lead a fulfilling life.For those who do not seek treatment, however, the outcomes are not as good. This is evidenced in part by increased medical costs, billions of dollars in lost workplace productivity each year and high suicide rates.Unfortunately, the barriers to seeking treatment are sometimes difficult to overcome. There may be a lack of confidence that mental health problems are valid, treatable health conditions; this can be addressed through education. There may be a lack of resources or reduced access to resources because of cost. This is especially true in rural areas, and various funding cuts over the past several years have dramatically impacted access. Collaborating with community partners, applying for grants and creative utilization of resources help alleviate this barrier.Finally, there continues to be a stigma in our society attached to mental health problems, which is both hurtful and dangerous to those wanting to get help. The media offers our greatest hope for eradicating stigma because of its power to educate and influence public opinion.The message that Mental Health month hopes to promote is that mental health problems are common and treatable. It’s important to get the facts about these problems and to be aware that help is available. Mental health and physical health go hand in hand and minding both results in fulfilling and productive lives.Gina Toothaker is a LPC CACIII for Colorado West Regional Mental Health, Inc., and program director for Rio Blanco and Moffat counties.