May is Mental Health Month - Raising Mental Health Awareness
By Sharon Kelly, LCSW, Behavioral Health Clinician, Atlantic Health System
Signs of “normalcy” are beginning to emerge, but what that normal looks like may not be the same for everyone, and that is ok!
We as a community, individuals, and caretakers, have learned many lessons in science, health care, education and business. Everyone has learned something, children and teens, the elderly, couples, front line workers to mention only a few.
One important thing we are all learning is that we have to live with ongoing uncertainty. Being resilient, hopeful and having good mental health is key to living forward well.
We learned how important social connection is and that we need to actively nurture our mental health. Mental health has often been something whispered about, or not even discussed. We can no longer deny how important our mental health is to our overall health and we need to talk about it.
What are some of the big lessons learned for mental health?
Mental health is part of our overall wellbeing. It needs as much attention as our physical health.
We learned that good mental health requires good sleep hygiene, a healthy diet and some exercise just like our body. They are integrally connected. It’s not only ok to talk to your doctor about your mood and general mental health, but it’s essential. They can help make sure you are getting the right mental health care.
We learned how important it is to pay attention to our mental health and to take steps toward good health.
You might need someone to talk to, cry with, vent to. Getting support from family and friends, spiritual advisors is an important part of supporting good mental health. Sometimes it helps to have a professional mental health clinician. We learned that this can be a psychiatrist who can guide us in medication needs or a psychologist or clinical social worker who can help us learn new skills to cope, grieve and bounce back from the hard stuff. And we learned that it is ok to get help!
We learned that when we are under too much stress, we can turn to things that cause us more harm than good, like drinking too much, shopping too much or numbing ourselves with too much social media or news.
Good mental health support can get us back on track to find healthy ways to cope with the pain and struggles of life.
We have learned that we need time to grieve all the losses over the past two years. We need to be with each other in safe places to gather.
Too much social distancing is not good for our mental health and can lead to loneliness and isolation, sometimes a sign of depression. We are learning creative ways to get connected with technology, but we also need real human connection.
As we learn to live with uncertainty, finding the lessons we can take with us is part of human growth and survival. Let’s make sure that talking about and caring for our mental health is one of the lessons learned.
No More Whispers About Mental Health
Mental health is often whispered about, but rarely discussed openly. The pandemic has shown how important mental health is to one's total health. We must start to speak frankly about mental health.
Atlantic Behavioral Health is committed to ending the stigma around mental health, substance misuse, and suicidal thoughts through its No More Whispers campaign.