The Empow­er­ment Cen­ter of West Coun­ty Com­mu­ni­ty Ser­vices is sup­port­ed by Men­tal Health Ser­vices of Sono­ma County.

Notes from California’s Men­tal Health Move­ment, Each Mind Matters:

Every May the nation comes togeth­er to raise aware­ness about men­tal health. Each Mind Mat­ters encour­ages every­one to start con­ver­sa­tions, lis­ten open­ly to one anoth­er and sup­port a loved one with men­tal health chal­lenges. We can achieve this by lis­ten­ing, speak­ing up and reach­ing out.

Did you know half of us will have a men­tal health chal­lenge over the course of our life­time? Yet research shows that many peo­ple — par­tic­u­lar­ly young peo­ple — wait a long time to get help due to fears of being labeled or stig­ma­tized. The fact is with sup­port and appro­pri­ate treat­ment peo­ple with men­tal health chal­lenges can, and do, get better.

Start a Con­ver­sa­tion about Men­tal Health

An impor­tant way to reduce stig­ma around men­tal ill­ness is to have open and hon­est con­ver­sa­tions with your loved ones. Research states that it takes young peo­ple 6 to 8 years, from the onset of symp­toms, to ask for help. By start­ing a con­ver­sa­tion and pro­vid­ing sup­port, your loved ones may be more like­ly to seek treat­ment soon­er rather than lat­er. Talk­ing about men­tal health will help reduce the risk of con­se­quences asso­ci­at­ed with untreat­ed men­tal illness.

What does it mean to have an open and hon­est con­ver­sa­tion about men­tal ill­ness? If you are con­cerned about some­one in your life but not sure what to do, try tak­ing these steps:

1.    Find a time to talk pri­vate­ly, and share why you’re con­cerned. Ask ques­tions that call for more than just a yes/no or one word response and then real­ly listen.

2.    Offer hope and sup­port. Let them know that strug­gling with men­tal health is quite com­mon and that peo­ple can and do recover.

3.    Share resources. Offer infor­ma­tion about where to find help. For exam­ple, vis­it EachMindMatters.org/resources to learn about local and nation­al            orga­ni­za­tions pro­vid­ing men­tal health services.

4.    Fol­low-up. Ask the per­son how you can help, and fol­low their lead about what is helpful.

Start­ing a con­ver­sa­tion might be dif­fi­cult but it can be the most impor­tant one you have. Print out a copy of “Say This Not That” to help you know what to say.If you believe a loved one is at risk of sui­cide, vis­it suicideispreventable.org to learn about the warn­ing signs and how you can help.

Recov­ery is pos­si­ble. Each Mind Mat­ters has sto­ries from real peo­ple who share their per­son­al tes­ti­monies of hope and resilience in over­com­ing a men­tal health chal­lenge. Vis­it EachMindMatters.org/stories to watch these pow­er­ful videos and con­sid­er shar­ing them with a per­son who you are con­cerned about.

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And you can also focus on how you care for your own men­tal health and wellness.

Here are a few tips to help you with your men­tal health, which also con­tributes to improved work per­for­mance and high­er lev­els of satisfaction:

·        1. Get mov­ing. Light exer­cise 3 days a week improves hap­pi­ness and work productivity.

·        2. Go out­side. 20 min­utes of sun­light can help your mood, con­cen­tra­tion and sleep.

·        3. Get togeth­er with friends or fam­i­ly. Stud­ies sug­gest that social sup­port net­works help you deal with stress and may even help you live longer.

·        4. Play games. Keep­ing your mind active by doing things like play­ing new games can alle­vi­ate depres­sion, espe­cial­ly as we get older.

Tak­ing momen­tary breaks through­out the day offers many ben­e­fits. One study has stat­ed that out­door activ­i­ties have been shown to alle­vi­ate symp­toms of Alzheimer’s dis­ease, stress, depres­sion, and also improve cog­ni­tive func­tion­ing and creativity[1].

[1] Wolf, K.L., and K. Flo­ra 2010. Men­tal Health and Func­tion – A Lit­er­a­ture Review. In: Green Cities: Good Health (www.greenhealth.washington.edu). Col­lege of the Envi­ron­ment, Uni­ver­si­ty of Washington.]