May is Mental Health Awareness Month!
May is Mental Health Awareness Month!
Written by Kelsie Goller, MA, LPC-S, RPT
Clinical Director, KPS
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to focus on mental health and wellbeing, as well as a time to focus on removing the stigma regarding talking about mental health issues. Millions of people in the United States alone report mental health problems every year (1 in 5 adults). You can read a more complete summary of mental health issues in America on NAMI’s webpage: Mental Health by the Numbers. But this month, instead of focusing on the high prevalence of depression, loneliness, anxiety, suicide, and other mental health issues, I am struck most by the incredible resiliency of people. Having walked with clients towards healing since 2011, first as a graduate intern, then in nonprofit community mental health, then in private practice, I have always been simply amazed and struck by how resilient people are, from the smallest child to older adult. There is darkness like we can’t imagine before we step into it, but in times of darkness, people reach out to their faith in God. They hold on to their communities. They find solace in a beloved pet. They change. They do not forget what happened, but they grow larger around it, like a tree growing around an immovable wall- changed forever in shape, but still growing. It is one of the greatest joys as a counselor to witness this resilience. We do not often get to share these stories with other people- they are not our stories to tell. And sometimes we only see a little bit of the journey, the most painful part rather than the redemptive part. But we witness the journey, and that is an honor.
As we focus on mental health and wellbeing this month, it may be helpful to make a self-assessment of your own wellbeing in the areas of life that are most important to you. Eight dimensions for self- assessment that are sometimes used in these types of assessments include: Spirituality, Social Life, Emotional, Intellectual, Physical, Professional (work/school), Environmental, and Financial (Stoewen, 2017).
~What am I doing to work towards wellbeing in each of these areas?
~In which area am I spending the most amount of time/energy and the least amount of time/energy?
~In which area do I WANT to be spending the most amount of time/energy and the least amount of time/energy?
~Reflecting on the answers to those last two questions, is there a small change that I can make this week to reflect my values?
As you ponder your own wellness at this time, remember that wellbeing and mental health don’t just mean taking a deep breath or a bubble bath, though they absolutely CAN include those things! Sometimes, self care means starting a gratitude journal to deeply notice the truly joy-giving moments in your life, whenever and wherever they appear. Sometimes, it means choosing to play with your kids while ignoring the house clean-up. Sometimes, self care means backing away from a toxic relationship. Sometimes, it means saying no to an additional commitment, even if you have the skills and passion for it, because you need to create more space in your life. Sometimes, it means scheduling an appointment with a counselor to fight back against the inner critics who keep up the daily tirade of negative thoughts, or to have someone walk alongside you on the journey of healing from trauma. And sometimes, wellness does indeed mean taking a deep breath and saying a prayer before you plunge into whatever hard challenge faces you in the moment. I encourage you to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month by taking a look at your current state of wellness and choose one action step to take towards wellbeing.
National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2023, April). Mental Health By the Numbers. Retrieved on May 5, 2023, from https://nami.org/mhstats?gad=1&gclid=CjwKCAjwjMiiBhA4EiwAZe6jQ_L8i0CPWPp0VvYwgw12oWwz3Vc_pnxLtl68Ff0Qjbrb1WqP4A-6bRoC0TkQAvD_BwE.
Stoewen D. L. (2017). Dimensions of wellness: Change your habits, change your life. The Canadian veterinary journal = La revue veterinaire canadienne, 58(8), 861–862.