Mental Health Awareness and Action

You may have heard that May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I hereby motion to amend the title and make it Awareness AND Action Month. We have a lot of work to do, and there is no time to waste.

We have been in a world health crisis set off by COVID-19 and the subsequent pandemic. But a serious side effect of the public health emergency has been a tsunami of mental health problems in people of all ages. The recent headlines do not exaggerate – depression, anxiety, suicide, eating disorders and OCD, are all on the rise, especially in our youth.

The sudden chaos and shutdown of the world has had a lot to do with the rise of emotional stress. It is not difficult to see the many ways that anxiety, stress, loss, lack of control, disrupted routines and plans, and isolation have invaded our psyches. But what is even more concerning are the pre-covid fissures in our emotional health and the cracks in our system that the pandemic has revealed.

One positive outcome of the pandemic is that we seem collectively to be more aware of mental health. With shut-downs, lock-downs, social distancing and fears of covid has come more attention to anxiety, isolation, worry. At least we are talking about it – more people are more public about their struggles. But we have more to do. We need to understand that mental illness is a thing. It is not one’s fault. It is not to be ashamed of. It is not a question of trying harder or being stronger. Depression, anxiety, psychosis, substance abuse, eating disorders, OCD and PTSD are illnesses. Just like cancer, diabetes, heart disease and broken bones. When someone experiences illness, of the body or the mind, they need support, resources and treatment.

The vision, research and science that has led to the COVID-19 vaccines are amazing, and yet there is no vaccine for mental illness. Psychological wellness is a journey, a process, and it is something we must invest in and cultivate. Health, both physical and emotional, is not a box on a list that can be checked off. But while we all engage in preventative physical health measures like taking vitamins, applying sunscreen, wearing seatbelts, getting exercise and nutrition, even wearing a mask for the last 14 months, how often do we consider our mental health? When was the last time you actively checked in on your own emotional state? When did you inquire about how someone in your life is really feeling? What do we do proactively to invest in our mental wellness?

We need to talk about mental health, and we have to do so openly and honestly. It needs to be ok to not be ok. We put too much emphasis on what is happening on the outside and not enough emphasis on what truly makes us feel happy, authentic and nourished on the inside. There is too much pressure on too many people, and the demands start too early.

If you are not sure where to start, I have some ideas. What is matters most is that you do something and start somewhere.

Breathe. Love. Laugh. Listen. Move. Hope. Be Authentic and Truthful. Practice Acceptance and Validation. Embrace Kindness and Compassion. Help Others. Stop Comparisons and Judgment. Prioritize your Values. Find Meaning. Check in on your own feelings and check in on others. Put Self-Care on your To-Do List.

Mental health matters – let’s be Aware and take Action.