May is the national mental health awareness month and it should remind us to acknowledge all the positive efforts supporting and improving the individual and the collective mental health. The White House has emphasized the importance of attending to mental health, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, in a recent briefing. Unfortunately, the pandemic has negatively impacted the mental health of people of all ages and has also created barriers to treatment.
Mental Health America, a non-profit organization committed to promoting mental health as a critical part of overall wellness, reports that even before COVID-19, the prevalence of mental illness among adults was increasing, and youth mental health is continuously worsening. Among the reasons for this outcome might be the healthcare system's unmet need for mental health treatment, the percentage of adults with mental illness who are uninsured, and of course, the stigma of mental illness. More than ever, it is critical to reduce the stigma around mental health struggles because that stigma often prevents individuals from seeking help.
How about our own personal stigma against our emotional fluctuations and mental state? How much are we considerate and proactive about our mental wellness? We have all been shaped by our environments and our genetic composition to react to life's circumstances. We all are made up of neurons, neurochemicals transit our brains which are expressed due to the changes in our physical and emotional state, and the brain is the pilot that guides our existence. Our most current reality puts our brains under ongoing stress. The response to it can be a myriad of emotions and all based on current, past, and even future scenarios that can hinder us or propel us to different actions.
We must honor these responses. We must listen and understand that there are emotions that we must process. We are not here to hide our feelings; suppressing them would be damaging. We are humans who are not meant to muscle through life and ignore the aspects of ourselves that need tending to; just because they are not expressed by some actual physical response, such as a bleed or a sprain, human emotions need care. Untreated emotions will yield to further sickness. It is not just mental sickness, but your being; your body will not function. The emotions that hurt us, hurt all. We process things differently from the person sitting next to us or even raised alongside us. A need to understand ourselves is nothing to single out and stigmatize anyone.
What should you do should you experience emotions that are difficult to surpass, such as persistent sadness, reliving past traumas, apathy, anxiety, extreme highs of emotions followed by extreme dips of emotions, to name just a few? You must seek out help. Help can come from a trained professional in the form of a counselor, social worker, therapist, psychiatrist, or psychologist. There should never be any stigma around our need for mental assistance. When we bleed, we go to doctors, and the same goes for these emotions; they are gushing and requesting attention.
Mental Health America put together "Tools 2 Thrive" providing practical tools that everyone can use to improve their mental health and increase their resiliency regardless of their personal situation. The toolkit includes valuable resources on the following topics:
To care for ourselves is not simply a physical component; we do not just meet basic physical needs, and we are well--there is more to it. The awareness that you are a being that is capable of transcending the experiences that are placed before you can lead to a fulfilled life. We honor ourselves by being true to this. We are here, and we matter. Mental health is vital to thrive in life.