Mental health means something different to every individual. Whether you have a well-established self-care ritual or constantly struggle with your thoughts and feelings, our mental wellbeing has deep and profound impacts on our daily lives.
While mental health was once a taboo topic reserved only for discussion behind a closed curtain with close family members or therapists, it’s increasingly becoming a focus of public conversation. In fact, May is mental health awareness month, which gives us all the more reasons to reflect on our own mental health and the ways we may be impacting others’.
This progress is incredibly promising, but we certainly still have work to do. Despite the more welcoming environment we live in when it comes to addressing concerns, many still feel unable to speak up when they themselves are struggling. This is the start of a vicious cycle that can lead to worsening problems, leaving individuals feeling like they have no one to turn to.
On top of the fear of judgement, many people who recognize that they need help often cannot find adequate access to support resources. Especially during the pandemic, there has been a large spike in demand for counseling without an increase in available therapists to match. Countless individuals seeking help have been unable to find professionals accepting new patients.
And while upsetting thoughts may be able to wait a few months until things open back up, these thoughts can quickly escalate and turn into severe conditions. For example, a recent analysis found that many US cities are in need of additional addiction counseling resources to keep up with increasing local drug and alcohol abuse.
So what can we do about the issue? As an individual, you may not be able to increase the number of therapists or addiction counselors in your local hometown, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to help.
Stigma and support can begin (or end) with one person. Take a step back and ask yourself how you have practiced acceptance in your day to day life over the past few months. What are your own personal beliefs and biases when it comes to mental health? What can you do to rewire those perceptions?
The best thing we can do to help our communities is to educate ourselves. Know the signs of potential mental health issues and what you can do to intervene. Something as simple as being a shoulder to cry on and then being able to point your loved ones in the right direction could ultimately change a person’s entire experience with their mental health battles.
And while you’re at it, check in on yourself. We so often spend our time giving to others that we forget about our own needs. If you need a break, take one. If you need help, seek it. Together, we can be the change.