Mental Health Awareness Month
Posted on May 8, 2018 by CHS
May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. Strong mental health allows us to feel good about ourselves, develop healthy relationships, stay positive, manage stress, and work to our full potential. MentalHealth.gov states that “mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.”
Statistics show that 50% of adults living in the United States experience some form of mental illness during their lifetime. Even though there are so many people struggling with mental illness, the stigma associated with mental health often prevents them from asking for help. In fact, one study shows that many people wait six to eight years before seeking help, and some wait even longer.
Because mental health conditions are often seen in a negative light, one of the goals of Mental Health Awareness Month is to promote understanding of mental illness and encourage those people experiencing problems to come forward and talk to someone and get the help they need. Biology (genes), family history, and lifestyle can influence mental health the same way they influence physical health. People who live with abuse, or experience trauma, can suffer from mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, or substance abuse. To learn more about mental health conditions, click here. A doctor can diagnose the symptoms of mental health conditions and prescribe a course of treatment to promote healing and recovery.
Studies done on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) by Kaiser Permanente with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris have proven that strained mental health can directly impact physical health and can even cause asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. In her book The Deepest Well, Dr. Burke Harris shares her research and discusses interventions for preventing these diseases. If you, or someone you love, are experiencing any of the following symptoms, then contact a medical professional for assistance.
- Irregular sleeping and eating habits.
- Lacking energy for daily activities.
- Experiencing aches and pains without any sign of illness.
- Use of tobacco products, alcohol, and other dangerous substances increases.
- Extreme confusion or mood swings that interrupt work or relationships.
- Feeling helpless or hopeless.
- Pushing away family and friends.
It is normal to feel overwhelmed, anxious, or stressed out occasionally, but when it happens every day, and prevents you from functioning and living a normal life, then it is time to get help. Remember that everyone needs help from time to time, and everyone can benefit from taking steps to support a healthy body and mind.
Supporting Mental Health Awareness
There are several things you can do to take better care of your mental and physical wellbeing, as well as support awareness that it is okay to talk about mental health and ask for help. The following are ideas to get you started.
Wear a lime green ribbon, jewelry, or lime green clothing during the month of May. This is the symbol for Mental Health Awareness. When people ask why you are wearing it, you will have an opportunity to talk about the benefits of good mental health.
Show support for mental health awareness by participating in Mental Health America’s Fitness #4Mind4Body Challenge. In this challenge, you are encouraged to take better care of both your mind and body so you can experience total wellness. To learn more and download a free toolkit with information and media graphics, click here.
Start taking care of your own mental health. Try deep breathing or meditation exercises to help reduce your own stress and tension. You can find free printed materials about reducing stress and recordings of relaxation exercises on the Center for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation website. Kaiser Permanente also offers a free video on how to manage emotions with breathing exercises and free podcasts about emotional health.
Be available. If your child, a family member, or a friend needs to talk, then make time to listen. Use a calm tone of voice and listen without judgement to whatever they need to say. Avoid vague or general statements such as “everything will be okay,” and instead use concrete statements that are true. For example, “I am here and I am listening.” Follow up by offering support you know you can give. An example is, “I would like to help by driving you to the doctor. Is that okay?” When people hear general statements such as, “Is there anything I can do?” they may not be comfortable asking for what they really need.
Form a circle of support with family, friends, or community members when someone you love is in need of help. Your circle can meet with the person in need and help make decisions about what to do next, or how to get something done. Circles of support are effective in helping people who have lost a loved one, are experiencing financial stress, are moving, or are caring for a newborn. The group can come together to coordinate assistance like preparing food, helping with transportation, babysitting, etc. You can use this free Care Calendar to coordinate activities.
Share resources. Keep a list of phone numbers and websites that can help people in a crisis, or bookmark this blog on your smart phone so you can easily reference the websites and phone numbers noted below when needed.
Hotline Phone Numbers for Information or Crisis Intervention
The following nationwide phone numbers, online chat rooms, and text support resources are free, confidential, and available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available through online chat in English or Spanish, or by phone at (800) 273-8255. Services are also available online for the deaf and hard of hearing.
- Veteran’s Crisis Line is available to all veterans and their families through online chat, by sending a text message to 838255, or by calling (800) 273-8255 and pressing 1. Support for the deaf and hard of hearing is available.
- WeTip Anonymous Tip Line is a completely anonymous program for reporting school incidents like bullying, fighting, drug use, weapon possessions, and other dangerous behaviors, as well as any type of crime (arson, human trafficking, fraud, vandalism, corporate crimes, international crimes, and more). Tips can be reported online or by phone at (800) 78-CRIME. Native Americans living on a reservation can call (855) 4-THE REZ to report crimes.
- Child Help is a national child abuse hotline that serves the United States and Canada with operators who speak over 170 languages. The hotline phone number is (800) 422-4453.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline is available through online chat, in English or Spanish, or by calling (800) 799-7233. Teletypewriter (TTY) users can call (800) 787-3224.
- Love is Respect offers advice to young people who have questions about dating and relationships that may be abusive. Assistance is available through online chat, by texting loveis to 22522*, or by calling (866) 331-9474.
- California Department of Health Care Services Mental Health Division (Find the phone number for your county’s Mental Health Department): http://www.dhcs.ca.gov/services/Pages/MentalHealthPrograms-Svcs.aspx
- Childhood Mental Health: Promoting Social and Emotional Well-Being brochure by Children’s Home Society of California: https://www.chs-ca.org/_docs/FEP_MentalHealth_2016_English_web.pdf
- Each Mind Matters (California’s Mental Health Movement): https://www.eachmindmatters.org/mental-health/
- Grief, Loss, and Trauma in Young Children blog by Children’s Home Society of California: https://www.chs-ca.org/blog/entry/grief-loss-and-trauma-in-children
- How Can We Build and Nurture Our Circle of Support? by Caren Osten Gerszberg: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-right-balance/201708/how-can-we-build-and-nurture-our-circle-support
- Mental Health in Schools by the California Department of Education: https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/cg/mh/
- Mental Health in Young Children blog by Children’s Home Society of California: https://www.chs-ca.org/blog/entry/mental-health-in-young-children
- Self-Esteem: Building a Child’s Confidence and Success brochure by Children’s Home Society of California: https://www.chs-ca.org/_docs/FEP_SelfEsteem_2017_English_web.pdf
- Stress: How It Affects You and Your Child brochure by Children’s Home Society of California: https://www.chs-ca.org/_docs/FEP_Stress_2017_English_web.pdf
- The Early Childhood Mental Health Collaborative in Orange County, California: http://occhildrenandfamilies.com/helping-preschoolers-with-mental-health-issues/
- Time to Talk (Guide for Adolescents and Teens): https://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/sites/default/files/webform/Time%20to%20Talk%20-%20Guide%20for%20Adolescents%20and%20Teens.pdf