Mental Health Awareness Month – Week 03: We’re In This Together

While the emphasis on addressing the growing mental health needs of our country is often placed no the role professionals play, we often lose site of what it is we can do for each other.  As shared on their website, this is the focus of mental health month at National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI). As part of this they are seeking to amplify the message of “Together for Mental Health.” They are using this month and their platform to bring our voices together to advocate for mental health and access to care through NAMI’s blog, personal stories, videos, digital toolkits, social media engagements and national events.  In this they feel that we can realize our shared vision of a nation where anyone affected by mental illness can get the appropriate support and quality of care to live healthy, fulfilling lives.

Ready to learn what you can do to help those in need? Check out NAMI’s “Together for Mental Health” resource page at https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/Mental-Health-Awareness-Month

Mental Health Awareness Month – Week 02: Self Check-In

As Mental Health Awareness Month continues we want to assure everyone is checking in with themselves. While the names of many mental health diagnoses have made their way into our everyday vocabulary, not all of us have been given the opportunity to learn what they are and to what degree the are part of our lived experience. As such, this week we encourage you to have a look at the mental health screening tools offered by Mental Health America at https://screening.mhanational.org/screening-tools/. If you suspect you are living with one of these conditions, be sure to check out our resources page to get connected with a professional to discuss this further. Cooper employees and their families can take advantage of CareBridge, more information is available at http://wellness.cooperhealth.org/carebridge/. Everyone can also have a look at the PsychologyToday therapist locator at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us, which lets you filter by location, insurance status, and specific issues you would want to address in therapy.

Mental Health Awareness Month – Week 01: Just the Facts

Each May, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services observes Mental Health Awareness Month. During this month, our featured posts will focus on promoting information about promoting and maintaining good mental health, as well as what to do when you are someone you love are struggling. This week, we are focusing on some basic facts about mental health as presented by Mental Health America (MHA).

With mental health entering more and more of our daily conversations, it’s critical that everyone has a solid foundation of knowledge about mental health.

  • Addressing mental health symptoms early is critically important for overall health. From social determinants of health to genetics, many factors are in play when it comes to mental health conditions, but there are protective measures that can prevent mental health conditions from developing or keep symptoms from becoming severe.
  • While 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness during their lifetime, everyone faces challenges in life that can impact their mental health.
  • About half of Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition sometime in their life, with symptoms starting by age 24 for the majority of people.
  • The average delay between symptom onset and treatment is 11 years, meaning a lot of people spend months or years facing mental health challenges before getting a diagnosis. It is never too early to seek treatment for your mental health. Intervening effectively during early stages can save lives and is critically important for people living with mental health conditions.
  • Social, cultural, and historical factors often impact the mental health of communities that have traditionally been marginalized. These communities experience overt racism and bigotry far too often, which leads to a mental health burden that is deeper than what others may face.
  • Life can be challenging, but every day shouldn’t feel hard or out of your control. If it does, one of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition is to take a mental health screening at mhascreening.org.
  • The delays in treatment for mental health conditions are longer than for many other health conditions. Getting screened increases the chances of getting treatment. Mental Health America has free, anonymous, and scientifically validated mental health screens at mhascreening.org.
  • Your screening results can be used to start a conversation with your primary care provider or a trusted friend or family member, and you can begin to plan a course of action for addressing your mental health.
  • When facing a mental health concern or living with a mental health condition, it’s common to feel like no one understands what you’re going through. You aren’t alone – help is available, and recovery is possible.
  • Starting July 16, 2022, call 988 for matters of mental health crisis. Calling 988 will connect you directly to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is staffed by trained crisis counselors 24/7, 365 days a year.

Get Connected!

One of the most consistent and powerful predictors of wellbeing is a sense of being connected to our fellow humans. That sense of connectedness was already fraying pre-COVID and, in may ways, has worsened since. But this is a solvable problem! The folks over at The Art of Health Living have created a list of 10 very different ways you can improve your sense of connectedness to your community today. These range from longer term commitments like volunteering, to things that may only take a half hour or so like donating blood.

Check out the full list in the article 10 WAYS TO GET INVOLVED IN YOUR COMMUNITY at https://artofhealthyliving.com/10-ways-to-get-involved-in-your-community/

Burnout and Change: The Perspective of a Behavior Change Scientist and Mom

Dr. Jacqueline Kerr left a 20 year career in academia back in 2018 and has since dedicated herself to helping to prevent burnout in others. She is a burnout survivor. She recently spoke at the annual meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine and presented on the 12 Stages of Burnout (below), how burnout happens, and how we can take a comprehensive approach to fixing it now and preventing it going forward.

Dr. Kerr’s behavior change approach considers the systems we are part of and empowers people to change themselves and to advocate for change in others. She is now applying her research to different settings; schools, senior centers, retirement communities, workplaces, neighborhoods, healthcare systems, and government agencies. She leverages her background as an implementation scientist to guide a collaborative approach to behavior change and to build quality improvement learning cycles into the process. Her approach now incorporates using mobile devices, software systems, mobile applications, and machine learning to maximize precision in solving complex personal and systematic problems.

Learn more about Dr. Kerr at https://www.drjacquelinekerr.com/

Want to be happier? There’s a class for that!

Science and business journalist Sara Harrison recently wrote a piece for Wired.com examining the recent increase in popularity of online happiness courses. The full article, “Online ‘Happiness’ Classes Might Work Better Than You Think“, can be read at https://www.wired.com/story/online-happiness-classes-might-work-better-than-you-think/. In a nutshell, she is told and settles into the conclusion that the concept of having unremitting happiness, while a good aspirational goal, is not sustainably achievable. More to the point, she quotes Science of Happiness professor Bruce Hood in concluding that to “register a positive emotion, you have to know what those less pleasant feelings are like you need to experience both sides of the coin.” They jointly suggest that improving our sense of well-being and satisfaction is possible and what will give us the greatest benefit.

You can consider taking a Science of Happiness course online, but for starters, consider taking a moment today to pick a target for well-being and satisfaction and set one small goal toward it.

What Dentists Can Teach Us About Mental Health

Many of us avoid our dentists, and the mere thought of dental care can feel anxiety provoking for some – a perceived detriment to our mental health! All kidding aside, though, dentists can teach us a lot about how to manage mental health well, both proactively and reactively. David Kouba, attorney turned licensed clinical mental health counselor and active contributor to National Alliance on Mental Illness’s (NAMI) mental health blog, recently published an article outlining what dentistry can teach us about fostering healthy habits at an early age, preventative care throughout the lifespan, identifying and assisting at-risk individuals, modeling recovery, and decreasing stigma. You can read his article, entitled “What Mental Health Care Can Learn from Dental Health Care Strategies“, at https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/March-2022/What-Mental-Health-Care-Can-Learn-from-Dental-Health-Care-Strategies

Jakoś to Będzie

The following was written by Olga Mecking of BBC Travel. It captures what many of us having been grappling with for a long time, especially over the last two years. Many of us feel, as Ms. Meckling describes, that we have been through one of the greatest trials imaginable and have little fuel left in the tank to go forward, but we must. Enter the Polish concept of Jakoś to Będzie.

Growing up in Poland, Ms. Mecking describes hearing people people say ‘Jakoś to będzie’ (pronounced ‘Ya-kosh toe ben-jay’). The phrase means ‘things will work out in the end’ – but “it’s so much more than that” the author says. Rather than sitting around and hoping things will work out by themselves, ‘Jakoś to będzie’ is acting without worrying about the consequences. It’s reaching for the impossible. It’s taking risks, and not being afraid. It is a phrase born out of a country that was the focal point of conflict and upheaval from 1772 to 1795, disappearing from the map for 123 years, and after World War II was left destroyed and its population decimated before shifting to Soviet control in 1981. And still, the people say “Jakoś to Będzie.”

Read more about the author and the phrase “Jakoś to Będzie” at the full article “The Polish Phrase That Will Help You Through Tough Times” at https://getpocket.com/explore/item/the-polish-phrase-that-will-help-you-through-tough-times

When the Headlines are Scary

Almost anywhere you turn these days you will find a reminder of how scary the world can be. This can be overwhelming for adults, a fact that predated the pandemic and that has certainly been underscored by it. But imagine how much more scary it is for the young people around us.

If you are noticing increased sadness or anxiety as the scary headlines pile up in the young people around you, or yourself for that matter, then have a look at the recent publication from Claire McCarthy, MD, pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital and Senior Faculty Editor at Harvard Health Publishing. In her article “Talking to children about tragedies and scary headlines in the news” she offers four simple things all adults can and should do to manage the distress of young people around us and ourselves. These are summarized below, and you can read her full article at https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/talking-to-children-about-tragedies-in-the-news-2017101012567

1. Tell them what happened, in simple terms. Be honest, but skip the gory details. Answer their questions just as simply and honestly. If you think — or know — that your child has already heard something, ask them what they’ve heard. That way you can correct any misinformation, and know not only what you need to explain but also what you may need to reassure them about.

2. Be mindful of the media that your child sees. The news can be very graphic, and because the media are as much in the business of gaining viewers as of delivering news, they tend to make things as dramatic as possible and play footage over and over again. When the planes flew into the Twin Towers on 9/11, my husband and I were glued to the television, not realizing that one of our daughters, who was 3 years old at the time, thought that planes were literally flying into buildings again and again. It wasn’t until she said, “Are those planes going to come here too?” that we shut off the TV and didn’t turn it back on again until all the children were in bed.

3. Make sure your child knows that you and others are always doing everything you can to keep them safe. Talk about some of the ways you keep them safe, ways that are relevant to the tragedy you are talking about. Make a safety plan as a family for things like extreme weather or getting separated. Help them think about what they might do if they are ever in a scary situation, and who they could turn to for help. Which leads me to the most important thing to do…

4. Look for the helpers. The wonderful Fred Rogers often talked about how when he saw scary things on the news, his mother would tell him to look for the helpers, because there are always people who are helping. That may be the best thing we can do as parents: help our children look for the helpers. In all of the recent tragedies, as in all tragedies, there were so many helpers and heroes. When we concentrate on those people, not only do we give our children hope, but we may empower them to one day be helpers too.