Mental Health Awareness Month is observed every May and seems even more profound for 2021 as the world continues to experience and endure the effects of the pandemic, impacting mental health not just on an individual level but on a global scale as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood (http://bit.ly/cdcMH2021).” Good mental health is just as vital as good physical health, and May is a great month to learn more about what you can do to support your own mental health as we continue to transition through the pandemic.

The National Institute of Mental Health Information Resource Center offers these guidelines when thinking about your mental health and contemplating whether any of the symptoms listed below may be affecting you on a regular basis (http://bit.ly/nihMH2021):

Do I have mild symptoms that have lasted for less than 2 weeks?

• Feeling a little down

• Feeling down, but still able to do job, schoolwork, or housework

• Some trouble sleeping

• Feeling down, but still able to take care of yourself or take care of others

They suggested that if this is so, you may want to try some of these self-care activities:

• Exercising (e.g., aerobics, yoga)

• Engaging in social contact (virtual or in person)

• Getting adequate sleep on a regular schedule

• Eating healthy

• Talking to a trusted friend or family member

• Practicing meditation, relaxation, and mindfulness

Do I have severe symptoms that have lasted 2 weeks or more?

• Difficulty sleeping

• Appetite changes that result in unwanted weight changes

• Struggling to get out of bed in the morning because of mood

• Difficulty concentrating

• Loss of interest in things you usually find enjoyable

• Unable to perform usual daily functions and responsibilities

• Thoughts of death or self-harm

You should talk to a healthcare professional if the symptoms listed above (both mild and severe) do not improve or seem to be worsening even with efforts and/or activities of self-care being utilized. You can access the information shared above, which was made available by NIH, in a 1-page printable pdf at http://bit.ly/needMHhelp as well as locate mental health resources and/or providers near you by visiting NH 2-1-1 at www.211nh.org and searching their online database or by calling 2-1-1 and receiving one-on-one assisted with one of their trained operators. The pandemic has placed stress, caused worry, and created tension for most individuals to some degree this past year. If you have not been doing so before, now is a perfect time to examine your mental health as well as administer some self-care to protect and preserve your mental health today and in the future.

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