Today marks the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Month.
What, if anything, does that mean to you? How does it make you feel? I tend to feel cynical and jaded at the prospect of another month, another cause. How does the declaration of a month of awareness actually help raise awareness? If awareness is raised, what’s the next step?
I have lived with several mental health disorders all of my life. Unfortunately, I grew up in an era when people didn’t talk about mental health. I knew that my mother had suffered from panic attacks. I found out that my paternal grandmother had depression, but I only discovered these facts well into adulthood. I still don’t feel comfortable discussing mental health with my parents who are in their late 70’s. I believe that sometimes it takes a serious mental health emergency or “breakdown” to open up those lines of communication.
An essential component of awareness is the ability to be able to talk about subjects that may make us uncomfortable. This is where you have to take cues from others. Never discuss another person’s mental health issues unless you have gotten permission from them and always be loving and kind.
I know that many are struggling these days and I’m not exception. I have days in which I tell myself that I’m strong and capable of handling whatever is thrown my way and then like today, I wallow in self-pity, feeling lonely and sad and depressed. I am able; however, to recognize that downward spiral and try not to let it get out of control.
Do what it takes to keep yourself mentally healthy. Talk to a counselor, friend, or spiritual advisor. Exercise, meditation, good nutrition, and the most important thing (I believe) is to shift your focus. Focus on helping another person or focus on something positive after you have allowed yourself to have those down feelings. If you are feeling suicidal, please get help. 1-800-273-8255 is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Do your part to raise awareness by making yourself a safe place for others to talk about their own mental health without judgment.