Are you aware of YOUR mental health?
Mental Health Awareness Month (also called Mental Health Month) has been observed in May in the United States since 1949. The purpose is to raise awareness about the mental health continuum, reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues, promote help-seeking behaviors and emotional well-being practices, and prevent suicide through individual education and outreach events. (Learn more from NAMI about Mental Health Awareness Month, including facts/statistics related to mental health.)
One of the primary goals of Mental Health Awareness Month is reducing the stigma associated with mental health issues. "Stigma" is when someone, or you yourself, views you in a negative way because you have a mental health condition. People experiencing symptoms sometimes feel shame, or fear rejection, because of them. This shame or fear - stigma - surrounding mental health issues often prevents, deters, or makes it harder for people to seek the help and treatment they need. The truth is 1 in 5 adults will experience a mental health condition in a given year, but less than half get the help they need, even though treatment could provide relief from symptoms. Reducing the stigma surrounding mental health would mean people view going to a therapist for help with symptoms just like they view going to a doctor when you have the flu. (To get involved with reducing the stigma surrounding mental health, check out this months' community events hosted by West Bergen Mental Healthcare, share this video on social media, or visit the Oradell Stigma Free Community on Facebook.)
By viewing mental health on a continuum, we are more likely to recognize it as a dynamic state that changes throughout life depending on one's stressors. The continuum model helps to remove some of the judgement and stigma associated with mental health issues, and encourages us to be diligent in continuously assessing our own mental health. Recognizing that life stressors play a significant role in how we feel mentally, we will be more likely to look for ways to maintain and support our mental health during times of stress (managing stress and developing coping skills), rather than wait for mental illness to take root before seeking treatment.
Which brings me to our activities for the month! At OPS, we are celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month by providing families with information and exercises designed to foster conversations about mental health between parents/guardians and children. The information and exercises will be focused on identifying stressors, identifying stress symptoms, managing stress, and developing coping skills.
The first packet discusses what stress is, and provides exercises to help you and your family identify your stress triggers and symptoms. The worksheets are designed to be done together in order to bring the family together. Questions for discussion are provided to jump-start your conversations. Download the packet below!
Packet 2 addresses stress management. While a small amount of stress is actually beneficial, too much stress or chronic stress is detrimental to one’s health. Use this week's packet to learn about "the basics" of stress management, examine what you're already doing well, and identify small changes that could have a big impact.
Packet 3 (The FUN packet!) looks at coping skills. Anything can be a coping skill; the question is, is it really helpful? or is it hurtful in the long-run? Read this week's packet to learn about adaptive and maladaptive coping skills. Then use the checklists to determine and discover the best coping skills for you!