How to take charge of your mental health

(BPT) - Our nation is sharing in an experience with the COVID-19 crisis that will serve to reshape the future of our communities, our work, our families, and each and every individual. With so much attention focused on the diagnosis and treatment related to the virus, we recognize that those feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety, and even substance use may impact substantially more of us than a COVID-19 diagnosis.

Nearly half of American adults report that the COVID-19 crisis has affected their mental health, according to recent polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Meanwhile, Mental Health America’s (MHA) free, anonymous screening tools have seen a 70% increase in individuals taking their anxiety screen, and a 64% increase in the number of people taking their depression screen between January and April of this year.

During this public health emergency, it is important to take care of ourselves, support one other and spread the message that “you are not alone.”

You are not alone

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is partnering with Anthem Inc., one of the nation’s largest health benefits companies, on a month-long campaign focused on reminding all of us that ”You Are Not Alone.“ May is National Mental Health Month, and together, NAMI and Anthem, Inc. are focused on the power and necessity of maintaining social connections and well-being during a time when many are physically distanced from each other.

As NAMI CEO Daniel H. Gillison, Jr. shared, “Especially during this time of isolation, uncertainty and tragedy, it is vital that no one feels alone in their mental health journey.”

He continued, “The COVID-19 crisis not only shines a spotlight on our need for social connectedness, but also our need for real mental health resources. To support individuals during this crisis, NAMI is raising awareness to change our fragmented mental health system into one that serves everyone, so people can get the care they need.”

“Caring for ourselves — physically and emotionally — is critical to improving lives and communities,” said Dr. Prakash Patel, executive vice president and president of Anthem, Inc.’s Diversified Business Group. “During this challenging public health crisis, it’s important to know there are resources out there, whether through your employer, healthcare provider or community organizations, to help us get through this difficult time. Taking care of our mental health is just as important as our physical health. This month is a great reminder to take care of ourselves, as well as each other.”

Caring for yourself, caring for others

To take charge of your mental health during the current crisis:

  1. Care for yourself. Recognize the importance of “me time” and carve out a part of each day to do something that rejuvenates yourself — listen to a podcast, do yoga, connect with a friend, or just go outside for a breath of fresh air.
  2. Seek help if you need it. Talking to a friend or family member is a good start, but professional mental health services may also be necessary. The earlier people seek help, the better their results. While going to see someone in person may not be possible, telehealth offers a way to talk to a professional while practicing physical distancing. If you are thinking about harming yourself, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which can provide free and confidential emotional support in times of crisis.
  3. Explore community resources. There are many valuable and often underutilized resources available. These include Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), which are offered by many employers and include free therapy sessions and telehealth, as well as digital resources, like the mental health resource site, Psych Hub. And you can contact NAMI for nationwide peer-support and resource referrals, by phone (800-950-NAMI) or email (info@nami.org).
  4. Support one another. Caring for others is one way to care for yourself. Call an older adult who may be experiencing loneliness, text a friend who’s working long hours, or join your family or friends for a video dinner. A simple gesture can go a long way for you and for them.
  5. Talk about it. Let people know that they are not alone. Your experience matters. Taking time for yourself? Share your #MeMinutes, whether on social media, using the hashtag, or with others in your community. Sharing your own self-care routine may encourage others to care for themselves, too.

Sharing your personal experience engages others and fosters acceptance and awareness around mental health, and encourages others to take the steps to access treatment and support during difficult times. You are not alone.

For more information, visit www.nami.org.

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