Before COVID-19, May was designated to be Mental Health Month as a way to bring awareness to the challenges those with mental health issues face, as well as to learn how to help someone who experiences mental health problems, and to also decrease the stigma behind the words “mental health”. 

Mental health is now at the center of many conversations as we begin to emerge from stay-at-home orders.

A recent Time magazine article, by Markham Heid, says there is a significant increase in the number of people reporting “serious mental distress” this year compared to 2018.  Heid writes, “More than one in four American adults met the criteria that psychologists use to diagnose serious mental distress and illness. That represents a roughly 700% increase from pre-pandemic data collected in 2018.”

And a new campaign called, How Are You Really?  launched by designer Kenneth Cole, and supported by the Mental Health Coalition is helping to address this mental distress and illness. The campaign asks this question “How you are you really?

The coalition has brought together some of the most influential people in media and the mental health professional community to address this issue. 

So, if you’re asking yourself this question, “How are you really?” and finding a lump in your throat or tears in your eyes as you being to answer it, here are five ways you can begin to help yourself with your mental health: 

1. Become transparent. As we emerge from staying-at- home, an essential part of looking at mental health will be to become transparent with yourself. It takes courage to speak up and admit things aren’t going well. You are scared and aren’t even sure what to call this overwhelming sadness. The loss can feel like a fog and you can’t see clearly. As long as you try to minimize or deny it, you’re not able to accurately address the problem. 

2.  Simply name it.Sometimes the greatest distance is between our head and our heart. Your mind may try to tell you one thing, while your heart is sick with worry and anxiety

When it comes to mental health, you aren’t expected to the be expert. You don’t need to have a sophisticated language or vocabulary to identify your feelings or fears. It is okay to use the words – sad, angerfear or doubt.  And if you don’t think those words are accurate it is okay, to still reach out and simply describe what you are doing each day. Sometimes our actions speak louder than our words.  

3.  Seek help. Acceptance of how you are really feeling is one of the first steps to getting help. It is more than okay to say, “I don’t even know what I’m feeling or thinking.” When your mind and heart allows you to come to the realization that you feel stuck and broken, it can begin to look at the idea that you need assistance. You don’t need permission from anyone to ask for guidance. 

4. Reject ideas you’re at fault. During this time, it is easy to live near the figurative fault line. You may be ruminating on decisions that you made that put you in a vulnerable spot now. However, chances are you haven’t lived through a pandemic.  And believing somehow you could have protected yourself and your family from your current financial or emotional status is highly likely to be false. Right now, one of your biggest assets is your mental health. Protecting it and getting help for it will enable you to perform well in the future. 

5. Take small steps forward. When it comes to designing your day, it is important to remember that you can’t do everything all at once. Start with one small thing you can do to help improve your situation. This might be reaching out to a friend you know is a positive support or it may be not consuming alcohol. The small healthy steps can impact how you feel.  These actions will remind you that you still have control over some things. For example, set a fifteen minute timer on your phone and do something productive during that time, like reading a book or getting physical exercise. This small interruption in your day can help you function better. It is how you start to change your hour. 

Remember, depression can create a blind spot. With deep depression, it is not unusual for the person to be unaware they’re depressed. While you may be fearful to ask “How are you really doing?” or reach out, this can be the first steps for helping them.

Now, is not the time to practice emotional distancing, reaching out, showing you care, and asking someone “How are you really doing?” is one of the ways we can begin to heal from this pandemic. 

If you or someone you know is suicidalthis is the National Suicide Prevention hotline website, available to all 24/7 .


  • Kristin Meekhof

    Author, Resilience & Gratitude Expert, Speaker, Licensed Master's Level Social Worker

    Kristin A. Meekhof is an author, speaker, writer, blogger, resilience/lifestyle coach, avid runner, and a licensed social worker with more than 20 years of clinical experience. A nationally recognized expert on resiliency and gratitude, her best-selling book, A Widow’s Guide to Healing, was inspired by her own personal experience with widowhood, grief, and healing. When Kristin was 33, her husband of four years was diagnosed with advanced adrenal cancer and died eight weeks later. This was not Kristin’s first experience with significant loss. When she was nearly five, her father died after a long battle with cancer. Kristin has delivered speeches throughout the country, including at Harvard University Medical School, the Global Fund for Widows, and The Parliament of World Religions. She has been named a Maria Shriver “Architect of Change” and has written for or been featured in an array of nationwide media, including Psychology Today, the Chicago Tribune, The Shriver Report, USA Today, Redbook Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Organic Spa, Inc., Huffington Post, Yahoo Health with Katie Couric, US News & World Report, and Success Magazine. She is also part of the book Live Happy: Ten Practices for Choosing Joy (Harper Elixir). Kristin graduated from Kalamazoo College with a BA in psychology and received her master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan. A Korean-American adoptee, she was left on the streets of Korea as an infant. She came to the US in 1974 and became a naturalized citizen. She is a life- coach with clients throughout the United States, and has privately advised some of the most influential people in media and politics.