Taking Charge of Our Mental Health
Why is it important to take charge of our mental health? The idea that mental health is something that everyone should pay attention to is relatively new. Considering that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, it can no longer be ignored. As Michelle Obama says, “at the root of this dilemma is the way we view mental health in the country. Whether an illness affects your heart, your leg or your brain, it’s still an illness, and there should be no distinction.”
Mental health issues can range from the very mild such as generalized anxiety to the persistent such as Borderline Personality Disorder and extreme such as Schizophrenia. All areas of mental health should be treated with the same level of attention and care. We may not all have the same treatments, but taking care of our minds and emotions can lead us all to better personal outcomes.
Throughout history, taking care of our mental health has not been valued. Interestingly, when Eisenhower introduced the concept of “a chicken for every table” at the height of the industrial revolution, a shift in our culture occurred, from homegrown high quality food to cheap and accessible food. This cultural shift allowed us to trend away from health and trend towards convenience ever since. Often, families gardened not only for food, but for togetherness, for physical health and for time to be outdoors in nature. At the same time, mental health issues are on the rise.
Today, our culture is fast paced. We are expected to work long hours, eat quick meals, text each other updates and often we run on a treadmill rather than outside, if we have time to run or exercise at all. We use filters to brighten our skin and whiten our teeth on social media, and we never post a photo of sadness or struggle. We are becoming a culture of masked perfection, and the more perfect we may look on the outside, the more troubles we are experiencing on the inside. The connection to each other and to the outdoors is taking its toll on our health physically and mentally.
What can we do about it? The first step to change, in anything, is awareness. Notice what is causing you stress, and make a plan for how to change it. Second, remember to ask for help. As a culture, especially here in New England, we are a prideful bunch that doesn’t like to ask for help. Help is the only way to change, and asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. As much as we do not like to ask for help, we love to help our neighbors. Sometimes help means asking a friend to go to dinner, and other times it may be scheduling an appointment with a therapist. Taking a hard look at what can help you organize your needs is another important aspect of mental health. In Substance use and mental health treatment, many Vermont use WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan). In this plan are five concepts: Hope, Personal Responsibility, Education, Self- Advocacy, and Support. What if we all adopted WRAP’s for everyday life? We all need hope; we all need to take responsibility for our mental and physical health; we all need to find out how to do that; we all need to figure out what works best for us as individuals; and we all need support in one form or another. What works for you? Some people find yoga and meditation to be what helps them find peace. One thing is for sure- in the fast paced culture with social media pressures of perfection, the first step to mental health is slowing down, and looking at what parts of our lives need to be nurtured, supported, and encouraged.
An Article by the Crisis Text Hotline offers tools for your “Mental Health Toolbox,” and that is a good way to view the necessity of mental health. To learn more, read the article here: https://www.crisistextline.org/blog/take-charge-of-your-mental-health. Remember, we all need to help each other, and mental health is just as important to wellbeing, success and happiness as physical health. Would you like to be involved conversations about mental health in your community? Join a standing committee, or groups of community members’ and staff that get together monthly to discuss services. For more info check out www.vermontcarepartners.org/agencies/
A collaboration of the Vermont Care Partners’ statewide network of sixteen non-profit community-based agencies providing mental health, substance use, and intellectual and developmental disability services and support.
To Find an Agency Near you visit: https://vermontcarepartners.org/agencies/
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255, www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org, Text VT to 741741
Vermont 211: Dial 2-1-1 anywhere in Vermont or visit www.Vermont211.org to get live referral help.