May is National Mental Health Awareness Month— a month dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of mental health and celebrating every step taken towards recovery. It is amidst the isolation and chaos that has pervaded worldwide that it is crucial to break the stigma around mental health and unite to support those battling mental disorders and illnesses. More importantly, it is vital to spread the message that, despite the feeling of solitude that may arise from dealing with extreme worry and stress during these times, you are not alone.
Mental Health Awareness Month was established in 1949 by the Mental Health America organization as a means to raise awareness of the importance of the wellness of citizens and to educate the public about the reality of mental illnesses. Mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, are conditions that affect a person’s mood, behavior, thinking, and daily functions. These conditions may be chronic and severely impact a person’s ability to cope with stress.
Trauma, in every shape and form, can also have an immense impact on the physical, emotional, and mental-well being of individuals. The results of facing trauma can be difficult for an individual to acknowledge and even more difficult to seek treatment and help. It is for this reason why we must devote ourselves to support those who decided to share their struggles and assure those who may be experiencing emotional distress in a more secluded way that there is no shame in asking for help.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the worrisome feelings that may accompany mental illnesses. People may become more reluctant to speak about their struggles knowing they are thousands of others dealing with physical and health issues. Individuals must then understand that their mental health is just as important as their physical health. The physical impact faced by others does not invalidate one’s emotional struggles; one’s mind deserves the same healing one grants their body when it is injured.
If you are looking for ways to take care of your mental health, here are a few tips:
- Talk about your feelings
Opening up about what is troubling you is never a sign of weakness, it is only a sign of the bravery within you. Chatting with a loved one, friend, or mutual can help you cope with troubling feelings and provide you comfort as you will no longer have to keep everything inside. You may even find that others are feeling the same things you are. It may feel difficult and pressuring at first but remember to give yourself credit for taking this step.
- Practice gratitude
Every day, try to think, say, or write down at least one thing you are grateful for. Reminding yourself of the things you are thankful for can help relieve feelings of stress. Making it a habit can have an even greater impact.
- Allow yourself to rest
Your mind and body deserve to rest. It doesn’t have to be just sleeping (although prioritizing your sleeping schedule is important!) but it can also be taking a break every now and then. Take a deep breath and relax. Listen to your body and mind when they are tired and allow them to rest.
- Eat regularly and stay hydrated
Eating regular, nutritious meals and drinking plenty of water grants your brain and body the energy it needs to function. Allow yourself to consume your favorite meals and snacks as well. Food is fuel!
- Treat yourself with kindness
Be as gentle with yourself as you would with others. Avoid self-criticism and invalidating your own feelings. Celebrate every small victory, whether it is just getting out of bed or facing your ‘fear food’ celebrate your strength and your journey.
Mental illnesses are a difficult matter to deal with and sometimes it is even more heart-wrenching to witness a loved one struggle with a mental health issue. If you have a friend or family member who may be struggling with a mental illness, there are various ways in which you can show support:
- Although sometimes it is evident when someone may be going through a tough time, you first want to make sure they are comfortable with the subject or are ready to open up about what is troubling them.
- When expressing your concern, be patient and assure them that you are there to support them. Listen to their thoughts and conflicts and refrain from passing on any judgement. Remember that they are probably already aware of their struggles and it takes a lot of strength to talk about them to someone else.
- If they show any symptoms, try to educate yourself on the matter and gently encourage them to seek advice/help from a mental health care provider.
- Recognize your limits and keep your well-being in mind as well. Sometimes a loved one can only help to a certain extent and that is okay. Recovery and seeking help is a tough journey and it is crucial to recognize the limits to which you can give.
- Know that even if your loved one does not explicitly express it, your concern and support make a difference.
Mental health affects how we think, feel, and live our daily lives. If you or anyone is battling a mental illness, know that your strength is recognized and your worries are completely valid.
- If you or anyone you know is at risk of hurting themselves, contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or dial 911 in case of emergency.
- The Crisis Text Line assists anyone in any type of crisis and connects them with a crisis counselor simply text “HELLO” to 74171
- Veteran Crisis Line: Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1 or text to 838255
- Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
- OK2TALK Helpline Teen Helpline: 1(800)-273-TALK
Help Finding Treatment:
- To locate mental health and addictions treatment facilities in your community, use the “Find a Provider” feature on the National Council’s website.
- To find a psychiatrist: American Psychiatric Association Foundation
- Child and adolescent psychiatric finder: American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
- Find a psychologist: American Psychology Association
- Locate Health Centers for Substance Abuse Services
Mental Health Books:
- Detox Your Thoughts by Andrea Bonoir Ph.D.
- The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health by Rheeda Walker, Ph.D
- Maybe You Should Talk to Someone
- The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook by Matthew McKay, Ph.D., Jeffrey C. Wood, Psy.D., and Jeffrey Brantley, M.D.
- I'm Not Sick I Don't Need Help: How to Help Someone With Mental Illness Accept Treatment by Dr. Xavier Amador