Started by the Mental Health America organization in 1949, this is a month when people across the mental health community collaborate on helping spread awareness around mental illness to let people know that they are not alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are 1 in 5 adults in America living with a mental illness. The stigma that surrounds mental illness and mental health makes it difficult for some people to seek treatment and get the help that they need and deserve.
One unforeseen beneficial outcome of the quarantining necessitated by the international pandemic and tragedy that is COVID, is that due to the challenges so many have faced from the isolation, mental health has come into the forefront and the stigma has lessened as conversations around mental health challenges and productive ways to address them have become a priority across the nation. Mental health is one of the many dimensions of diversity and something we take seriously and want to ensure all our employees, Scouts and volunteers prioritize – for themselves and others.
How can you help yourself and others with mental health? Here are a few ideas:
- Be open – to listening to others, sharing your personal challenges/experiences and to learning more about how to support yourself and others struggling with mental health.
- Take care of yourself – eat healthy, exercise, limit caffeine and alcohol intake and get enough sleep. https://www.tmhhealthyliving.org/healthy-living/21-tips-for-a-healthy-2021/
- Learn how to manage stress with coping skills.
- Practice gratitude – set aside time daily to think about what you are thankful for and practice an attitude of gratitude. https://positivepsychology.com/gratitude-exercises/
- Meditate, try journaling and/or practice spirituality/religion, which according to the National Association of Mental Health can help a person tolerate stress by generating peace, purpose and forgiveness. https://positivepsychology.com/meditation-exercises-activities/
- Volunteer – helping others will help you feel good about doing something tangible to help another in need. https://www.volunteermatch.org/
- Spend time with or get or foster a pet, or pet-sit for another. Studies (according to heart.org, the Guardian and many others) show that pets, especially dogs and cats, can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and playfulness, and even improve your cardiovascular health. https://www.onetail.org/foster/
- Educate yourself – on Mental Health and Wellness – including how to practice good self-care habits, and to understand more about different mental illnesses, symptoms and how it affects the life of people with the illnesses. Education can also help you check your unconscious biases around certain mental illnesses and associated stigmas to help promote understanding and empathy. Mental Health America has put together a mental health month toolkit to help people improve their own mental health while also building resiliency. This toolkit can be downloaded for free on their website. It includes information about managing your feelings, toxic influences and healthy routines.
- Get help if you need it. Acknowledging you need help is the first step. Talk to someone you trust, get help from a psychiatrist or another mental health expert (such as a psychologist or a clinical social worker). The sooner you do it, the better. Like many other medical conditions, mental illnesses are often easiest to treat when they’re in the early stages. If you feel you or another is at immediate risk of danger to yourself/themself or others, please call 911. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance abuse disorders. https://www.goodtherapy.org/find-mental-health-counselors.html
Our aim in Circle Ten Council is to promote a culture where every youth, volunteer and employee feels a sense of belonging and to build communities where every person feels respected and valued. We encourage balance and helping other people at all times is an integral element in our Scout Oath and Law.