What is mental health awareness? How many times have you heard about crisis lines? Is it saved in your phone? Go save 741741 in your phone and text NAMI if you or someone close to you is in a crisis. We need to make others more aware of the subject of mental health and of those in crisis. Think of mental health awareness like car maintenance before the need to call AAA. We’ll still have breakdowns, but not as many. We can’t save everyone, but we can make a difference.
Why should we learn more about mental health? Because we need understand how it touches and affects all of us. We need to respect the struggles of every individual that has a mental health issue-including ourselves.
While I consider myself a positive person, I can also be quite introverted. This is partially due to the loss of someone who, while unable to stand right next to me everyday, he always had my back. I had my brother for almost 40 years before he lost his battle with cancer. Life has carried on but not with the same support. The hardest part is that the more time passes, the more I miss him in new ways. That sting will never go away. However, I keep going and, like Lara Casey says, “It’s okay to grow slow.” So I grow slow. I process. I stay aware of my mental health and I move forward. Some days progress is like LA traffic and other days it’s like driving on a country road. And sometimes I take a break for the day. Grief is a strange kind of depression. It comes and goes in waves so we need to develop good coping skills.
I used to do outeach for NAMI. I was a Mental Health First Aid trainer. All the training I had didn’t stop grief from entering my life. I wanted to sit on the couch all day after my brother died. Medication was available but my therapist never recommended it because I actually never got the chance to sit on the couch all day!
Four days after my brother died I got a puppy. You really can’t sit down all day with a 7 week old puppy! Fonda showed me how to enjoy life again. When I was grieving, I became a dog sitter. I LOVED it. You never want to skip a day when you’re job is to spoil dogs! I got outdoors every day. I connected to something that I was passionate about. I let strangers into my home on good and bad days so I always had to be presentable. It was what I needed. I quit dog sitting to work full time. I miss the dogs but that’s okay. I still get to walk my own dogs every day and I still walk up to strangers to pet their dogs. I found something that worked for me and stuck with it.
So everyday since my brother died, I’ve had to reacquaint myself with ME again. I’m working full time while growing Vegetarian Minimalist. That’s a good excuse to be an introvert but I know I gotta keep putting those networking muscles to good use. Getting to know who you are helps you listen to everyone else in your life. It’s not easy but I listen much more intently to people than I used to.
Finding people who are going through the same experience is so helpful. The Summer Of PERMA is hosted by What’s Your Grief. It provides 52 ideas to show us that little things add up to permanent change. It’s nice do something every day for my own mental health. You choose one thing from the following categories:
Everyday you need to do one thing from one category. You can do something simple or something challenging. Doesn’t matter what kind of day you’re having, you can do something. My grief is a huge part of my mental health. PERMA isn’t just for grief. Learn more at What’s Your Grief . I might keep this up after summer is over. I’m still my true self and these exercises make me closer to my whole self.
We need to talk about mental health in front of people. Thoughts and prayers aren’t enough for other tragedies. That’s not enough for mental illness either. Call your local NAMI chapter. Find out about crisis centers in your area. Take a Mental Health First Aid course. If you know the signs, you can be a huge help to people. I see stigma around mental illness everyday and this stigma might stop someone from asking for help. This is what we need to prevent.
Medication and talk therapy is equally important as support from family and friends. We aren’t experts but we can tell the difference between an injury that needs a first aid kit or stitches. Same thing here.
One tip I got from Mental Health First Aid is to NOT ask someone immediately, “Are you suicidal today?” but ask “Are you feeling healthy today? Are you talking to family and friends that you usually talk to? Are you still involved in the same hobbies you love?” Listen to someone and be a good resource if they need a professional. Just text that number in your phone or call your local mental health centers.
Removing the stigma of mental health is what saves lives. Be objective about mental illness. We know when need help with a physical injury so don’t let stigma stop you from getting help for a mental health issue.
Here’s an important statistic I want to share with you. Mental illness affects 1 in 5 people in United States. That means you’re not the only one in Starbucks, Target, on Facebook, Instagram, or really anywhere. You’re not. So ask for help. If you saw 1 person in a group of 4 wearing a wrist cast and you had a broken wrist, you’d have a cast on because you asked for help. Treat mental illness the same way. Ask for help and ask other people if they need help. That’s how you begin to cure stigma and make mental health awareness more empowering.