This month marks the 70th annual Mental Health Awareness Month, a time when mental health allies nationwide come together to raise awareness for and educate the public about mental illnesses, the realities of living with a mental illness, and strategies for attaining mental health and wellness.
The reality is that 1 in 4 people in the United States will meet the criteria for a mental illness each year, yet less than half will receive any form of treatment. Regardless of whether you meet the criteria for a mental illness or not, we can all take action to improve our mental health.
Now, let’s talk about a few things you can do to improve your mental health and well-being.
Take a step back and check-in with yourself. It is important to set aside a few moments of your day to check-in with yourself to see how you are doing, both physically and emotionally. If you’re someone who prefers additional guidance in exploring your mental health status, you might also consider completing a mental health screening tool or setting up an appointment through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), should this be available through your employer.
Prioritize the basics. It is hard to be at our best emotionally if we are not taking care of our basic needs. Ensuring that we are getting appropriate amounts of sleep, that our bodies are properly nourished, that we are able to participate in pleasant and balanced physical activity, and that we addressing acute and ongoing physical health concerns is critical to setting the stage for well-being. While focusing on the basics sounds simple, it takes time. Consider taking a few minutes this week to set a small, achievable goal focused on taking care of your basic needs. Stick with this small change until it becomes a habit.
Take time to connect with others. The lack of social connections, both in terms of quantity and quality, can have significant physical and emotional ramifications, so much so that you may want to consider this as another one of the basics to attend to! If you are feeling ambitious, think about how you might be able to incorporate prioritizing the basics and socializing with others – for example, ask a friend to join you on a neighborhood walk or invite a group of friends to your home for a potluck dinner.
Evaluate and connect with your values. Evaluating and improving your connection to your values is another way to improve your overall well-being. Take time to consider what is important to you in terms of your education, career, leisure, and relationship with your community, in addition to who you want to be as a family member, coworker, and friend. Identify areas where your present state is different than where you would like to be. These are opportunities to improve your mental health by better aligning with your values and who you want to be.
Help to end mental health stigma. Finally, whether you have or have not personally experienced a mental illness, working to end mental health stigma is so important! Even seemingly small actions, like educating yourself about mental illness and being mindful of the language you use when speaking about mental health, can go a long way. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, consider participating in a mental health related walk, volunteering for a mental health related organization, or advocating for legislative actions that improve availability and quality of mental health care.
If you are feeling inspired and want to learn more about participating in Mental Health Awareness Month, check out the Mental Health America website.
About the Writer
Alyssa Kalata, PhD, is a licensed psychologist and Clinical Trainer for Veritas Collaborative. Alyssa firmly believes that all individuals and families have the right to competent, compassionate care and her approach to treatment is one that balances understanding and validation with a focus on cultivating change.