How Are We Handling a Mental Health Crisis?

I’ve hinted at this on the blog, but I’ve been in a mental health crisis before. More than once, actually. This isn’t the time or place to discuss those crises in detail, though, because I want to focus on how I felt, what I did, and how all of that made me feel safe and secure. Based on my personal experience, I’ve had to basically teach myself how to have a mental health crisis. It shouldn’t be that way, but that’s what I had to do, and I think I am better for it. So now I want to share my experience.

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First Steps to Getting Help for Mental Health Issues

Getting help for anything can be hard. For mental health? In my experience, it can be one of the most difficult things to do. There are so many reasons for why people can’t get the help they need. A lack of information and resources can make people feel like it’s more work than it’s worth. Figuring out how to find affordable mental health care can be another mountain to climb (insurance, you suck). And of course, there is the stigma of it all. So let’s take it back to the beginning. If you – or someone you know – is struggling with mental health issues, how can you take the first step to get help? Here are some things to consider.

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Why Everyone Should Care About Mental Health Awareness Month

As we reach the end of Mental Health Awareness Month 2020, I was trying to figure out what else I could write about it. Seeing as how this is a mental health blog, it feels like every post I write is about mental health awareness – what could I say now that would make this any different? But, seeing as how this is a big month not only for the mental health community but for organizations around the country, I decided to share why this isn’t just a cause for those affected, it’s for everyone. We should all care about mental health awareness – and here’s why.

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My Own Approach to Mental Health

As we continue on with Mental Health Awareness Month, I’ve taken a real interest in trying to define and explain what the concept of mental health looks like. I never thought the answer would be simple, but I did think that there would be a consensus. In the mental health community, it seems like there is.

Outside of that? It seems a bit up in the air. And since there are plenty of people who might be dealing with their own mental health challenges for the first time, it’s not the time for whataboutisms or judging what others are doing to stay mentally healthy. One way I can do that is to explain how I approach my mental wellness. Continue reading

What Mental Health Looks Like

When I wrote my post earlier this week, I wasn’t expecting to get as angry as I did. Not only did it get in the way of what I wanted to write about, but it frustrated me. I know it’s complicated to properly define mental health, but I didn’t think it was complicated because the dictionary doesn’t know how to define it. But we’re moving on…

A question that’s just as complicated to answer as ‘how do you define mental health’ is similar: what does mental health look like? I don’t mean yours specifically (though that IS the Mental Health Month Challenge!), but what the concept looks like. So I created a short photo essay to answer this question.

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What’s the Right Definition of Mental Health?

I’ll be honest – I had a totally different idea for today’s blog post. I was going to talk about how we define mental health and, using some definitions I found, introduce ways that we can recognize the practice of mental health in our lives. But after looking up those definitions, I couldn’t. Because after looking at two differing definitions for even a moment, it was clear why there’s confusion about what mental health actually is.

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A Mental Health Month Challenge

In case you missed it, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I like to start off the month by writing about some of the organizations and resources that are available for people to learn more about mental health. Whether you’re learning more about your own mental health or its prevalence in your country and community, there’s plenty of information out there that shows how important mental wellness is in this day and age.

But this year, I also wanted to help encourage others to explore their own mental health –  however that looks. And I think I found a few good ways.

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Mental Health Awareness Month 2020

The month of May is a big deal for MBNB because it’s Mental Health Awareness Month! I write about Mental Health Awareness Month every year, not only because this is a mental health blog (duh!) but because I like to share the themes leading mental health organizations focus on each year. Continue reading

Mental Health Outside of Awareness Months

I’ve written a ton of posts on this blog during ‘Awareness Months’ over the years: Mental Health Month, Mental Illness Awareness Week, Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, World Mental Health Day…the list goes on. I appreciate those days because not only does it shine a spotlight on a specific issue, but it emboldens people to talk about their experience in a way they might not do any other day, week or month of the year.

And while I appreciate those days, I’m never really sure what to say in the days and weeks after it’s over. What should we do? Is there an action that needs to be taken? How do we take what we’ve learned over that time and apply it to the future?

I thought about this especially this year after the end of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. I didn’t know to do when the month was over, because I wasn’t sure how to continue to educate others on suicide prevention and make people feel comfortable enough to share their stories and experiences.

It feels easier for some during an ‘Awareness’ month because others are speaking out, which I very much appreciate – in fact, I think that’s one of the biggest benefits of these ‘awareness’ movements. But it also makes me wonder why it’s so much harder to speak out the other days, weeks and months of the year when mental health isn’t necessarily a central focus on a national or global scale.

Sometimes it feels like there’s an all-or-nothing attitude toward attention given to mental health movements. This attitude isn’t from our community, of course; the bloggers, activists and organizations that I read from and follow are wonderful at continuing the conversation year-round. No, this is more of an attitude from the general public. It feels like if we’re not in the middle of an awareness month, then mental health is not on the radar.

Look, I know that there won’t be the same level of attention given to a cause outside of a time of awareness; that’s fine with me. I’m honestly just wondering why there can’t be a happy medium for this situation. Mental health doesn’t need to be at the forefront for everyone, but it’s also part of our daily lives. It comes up in the thoughts we have and the decisions we make. There’s space for it in the daily conversation. It might not always be happy and uplifting conversation, but that’s life.

Maybe the drop off that I’m talking about isn’t as extreme as I’m making it out to be, but that’s always how I’ve felt once these times of awareness are over. If I’m wrong, please let me know! I guess I just want mental health to be part of the daily conversation in some way, and not just when it’s Mental Health Day/Week/Month, etc. That’s not such a wild thought, right?

 

How to Fight the Mental Health Stigma

I have battled mental health issues for more than six years and, for just as long, I have been battling the stigma of mental health. There are plenty of reasons as to why the stigma surrounding mental health continues to exist, but its results are usually the same. People are given an inaccurate picture of what mental illness looks like and, based on this depiction, they treat people with mental illness a certain way. This leads potentially making people feel ashamed of their struggles, and not seeking help for those struggles.

While progress has been made, the stigma surrounding mental health persists in our world today (which I wrote about on the blog last week). But there are several things you can do to lessen the stigma surrounding mental health. While not all of them are easy, any action taken toward shrinking the stigma goes a long way not only for that person but for any of us who are struggling with our mental health. Here are some things to try to lessen the mental health stigma:

Be Open and Honest

When someone asks you how you’re doing, it’s natural to say that we’re ‘fine.’ But if you’re with someone that knows you well and you feel comfortable around, it might not hurt to tell them how you’re really doing. People are afraid of the unknown, but when you thrust mental health into everyday conversation, it becomes easier for people to accept in time.

Word Choice is Important

Labels – and knowing the right labels – are important when it comes to mental health. Your friend being sad for a few hours doesn’t mean they have depression. I’ve heard people get called bipolar all the time if they act even remotely out of the ordinary. And of course, there’s the constant labeling of the mentally ill as ‘crazy’ – a misspoken phrase that unfortunately is quite common. Once you pay attention to the words you use, you can begin to recognize when people around you use language that’s hurtful to the mentally ill.

Mental Health is Equal to Physical Health

This is something that I personally try to encourage as much as possible – that mental health is just as important as physical health. Mental illness is a disease just like all the other physical diseases out there, it’s just harder to see. Once people around me understood that I live with a disease, it was easier for them to accept why I sometimes couldn’t come to parties or hang out with them.

It’s All Relative

Mental health is not a one-size-fits-all type of thing. People are all on different journeys and in different places with their mental health, and what works for one person may not work for another. Recognizing that we’re all individuals with our own stories might seem like common sense, but mental health is something that’s often put into a box because of the lack of awareness or education. Don’t be afraid to tell your story and let people know that it’s just that – your story.

These are just a few of the many ways we can work to shrink the stigma. It’s hard to know what will work best in a given situation but one thing is certain – that stigma won’t go away if we don’t try to get rid of it!

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