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May Is Mental Health Awareness Month

For more than two years the whole world has experienced a pandemic that has had a major impact on our lives creating a greater need for mental health care. Fortunately, this has brought discussions about mental health care into the mainstream. Naomi Judd, for example, recently died by suicide after long struggles with depression and trauma from an abusive past. Yet there are many people not receiving help because of the lingering stigma that having mental health concerns is a sign of weakness. For others, the belief is that problems have to be severe and unmanageable before seeking help.

For too long mental and physical health have been treated separately as if the two are unrelated. Nothing could be further from the truth. As neuroscience research teaches us the impact of one on the other is huge.

We know that damaging events in childhood such as neglect, abuse, poverty, etc have impacts that can affect people throughout their lives leading to addiction, premature death, and a host of mental problems.

The pandemic has changed the way we grieve. The dictionary definition of grief is “intense sorrow caused by the loss of a loved one (especially death)” (dictionary.com).

“It takes courage to grieve, to honor the pain we carry. We can grieve in tears or in meditative silence, in prayer or in song. In touching the pain of recent and long-held griefs, we come face to face with our genuine human vulnerability, helplessness, and hopelessness. These are the storm clouds of the heart.”

Jack Cornfield

Most traditional societies offer rituals and communal support to help people move through grief and loss. We need to respect our tears and help one another. Without a wise way to grieve, we can only soldier on, armored and unfeeling, but our hearts cannot learn and grow from the sorrows of the past.”

During the pandemic, the normal processes for helping the bereaved were unavailable so people were isolated and cut off from support. For some this leads to a prolonged grief reaction making it harder to get back to life.

How can we provide our own mental health care and how can we help loved ones?

If you recognize that you are struggling with daily tasks and are feeling hopeless about your own future or depressed by the constant barrage of bad news reach out to your support system, friends, or family members with whom you can share your feelings. Or seek out counseling, realizing that you do not need to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder to be helped. I see many clients who are dealing with transitions such as moving,  retiring, returning to the office after Covid, or changing careers to name a few. Some need help sorting out feelings about partners or family members.

However, there are some simple things that we can do:

Accept all of your feelings – in troubling times a Pollyanna approach does not work. When you do share your feelings you encourage others to do the same. You are not alone.

Find some time to enjoy nature.

Reduce time spent watching the news and using social media.

Begin a gratitude practice to consciously focus on some parts of the day that went well or caused pleasure.

Begin a meditation practice using apps such as Calm or Headspace.

When talking with your partner try to make requests rather than demands.

Show self-compassion by taking a look at some of the “shoulds” and “musts” that are often self-imposed based on patterns we learned early in life.

Help someone else.

If you are wondering if you may need some professional help the website Mental Health America has some screening tools that may assist. Online screening is one of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether