deserves our attention
more than ever.
Each year, millions of Americans face the reality of living with some form of a mental health condition. They are our friends, our family members, and our co-workers. One in four adult Americans have a diagnosed mental health condition. Many of these individuals get up every day and make meaningful contributions to society, all while privately struggling with their own issues. Since May is designated as Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s use this opportunity to educate ourselves on how we can positively protect our own mental health, along with that of our children and others.
BY DR. MICHELLE YETMAN
First and foremost, we must make a concerted effort to eliminate the stigma associated with mental health struggles so more people will seek the help they need without fear of being negatively labeled. Individuals’ suffering with mental health should not be treated any differently than those diagnosed with other diseases.
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.
Over the course of your life, mental health problems will likely impact your thinking, mood, and behavior. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:
- Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
- Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
- Family history of mental health problems
Mental health challenges are common and often a normal reaction to life stressors. It is important to remember that it is okay to ask for help in life. When life becomes overwhelming, it is important to know that there are valuable resources that are available that can help an individual manage and cope. We should all be vigilant about protecting our mental health, just as we try to stay in the best physical shape possible. Managing stress, maintaining social contacts, and engaging in purposeful tasks all help to bring balance to our lives.
It is important to take care of yourself, both physically and mentally. Below are simple, practical suggestions to help promote mental well-being:
1. Talk about your feelings. Do not let negative emotions build up. Talking things out can often resolve issues. If you do not have family or friends who are willing to listen, therapy can be a valuable way to help process things and learn more about yourself. You can also develop effective coping skills.
2. Keep active. Regular exercise has been shown to be a wonderful stress reliever. It can improve concentration, mood, and sleep. In addition to the physical benefits of exercise, the mental health benefits are many.
3. Eat well. You are what you eat! A healthy diet can impact mood and improve cognitive functioning.
4. Drink sensibly. Alcohol is a depressant. Drinking to change our mood can make bad things seem worse. Alcohol or drugs are never effective coping strategies. When the substances wear off, you will feel worse. Never use alcohol or substances to manage difficult emotions.
5. Keep in touch. Loneliness is a toxic emotion. It is essential for people to maintain meaningful relationships throughout their lifespan. Calling or texting someone to let them know you are thinking of them will brighten someone’s day and is a good thing for your mental health.
6. Ask for help. Life can be hard. No one is superhuman and there is no shame in asking for help. Therapists and doctors specialize in treating individuals who are having mental health challenges. If you ever feel overwhelmed, reach out. Things can get better, but you might need to ask for some help first.
7. Do something you’re good at or what you love. What did you do for fun as a child? What activities can you lose yourself in? What did you love doing in the past? People who had hobbies faired better during the pandemic. Enjoying yourself can help you beat stress. Work to find a group of people who also enjoy the same hobby.
8. Finally, accept who you are. No one is perfect. Acknowledging your weaknesses and being proud of your strengths is part of being a mature adult. Growth is a lifelong process. Continue to discuss what you like about you.Michelle Yetman, PhD, is a Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Associate Professor Clinical at the Children’s Center at the School of Allied Health Professions at LSU Health Shreveport.
If you or someone you care about feels overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or like you want to har 11. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Helpline 800-985-5990. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-8255 or text MHFA to 741741.