How to have a conversation about mental health

By: Shauna Smith

 When talking about mental health as both the sufferer and the loved one, it can be an intimidating topic to approach but nonetheless an important one that is necessary to the healing of all parties involved. For those struggling to understand, these are some helpful ways to approach the conversation.

  1. Break the stigma surrounding mental health

Those struggling with mental illness still feel a great deal of shame despite how normalized and accepted it is to cope with one. This shame makes it hard to open up and gives individuals a sense of failure in their own life and their personal relationships. Asking someone what they are experiencing will ultimately help to guide them in a more positive direction and allow them to feel more comfortable speaking about it with you.

  1. Understand the connection between mental illness and suicide vs. illness and criminality

 Within today’s interpretation of mental illness, the word itself is still criminalized. It is proven that there is a major difference between criminality and someone who commits a crime while battling an illness. While mental illness is quick to be blamed for someone’s act of violence in the media,  the majority of those who suffer have no intent to harm another person at all. However, there is a larger and more impactful correlation with those who aim to harm themselves. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, “90% of people who die by suicide have depression or other disorders, or substance-use disorders in conjunction with other mental disorders”. When having a conversation please consider that triggering circumstances are not the main cause of suicide, but battling a mental illness at the same time is extremely high risk.

  1. Understand it’s not about using the “right words” it is about talking at all.

Those battling mental illnesses are people nonetheless and want to be heard regardless of how hard it is to speak about. It is not about avoiding specific terms or walking on eggshells in the conversation. As long as there is compassion and a willingness to hear them, then loved ones can begin to express how they are feeling. The biggest challenge about talking about this subject, is coming forward to talk about it period.

  1. If your comfortable, share your experiences

Talking about your own struggle in relation to the subject with no comparisons to another’s struggle can reach others in the conversation as well as aid yourself. Self advocacy is highly impactful and talking about what got you through the experience or how you manage day to day struggles could change someone’s life for the better.

A conversation can save a life, change a life, and empower others to do the same. In a time where mental health tolls are at their highest, have love in your heart, and compassion in your words.

Covid doesn’t end after recovery

By: Shauna Smith

Since the beginning of this mysterious virus, we as citizens have forced ourselves to learn how to cope and come to terms with the fact that life as we know it has completely changed. We have seen Covid-19 consume our media, our dinner conversations, and our social media feeds. We often struggle to remember a day where we didn’t have to wear masks in a store and social gatherings would sometimes feel like an inconvenience. Covid has greatly influenced our education system, our social lives, and in many cases has made mental health take a turn for the worst. While many believe their troubles end after recovery, I want to highlight the pain of those suffering with the lasting effects.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the symptoms associated with Covid-19 can last for months which can result in the lungs, the heart, and the brain. Whether you are young and healthy or elderly, this virus has proven its ability to affect us all. Many lasting symptoms include, fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, joint pain, chest pain, loss of smell or taste and other concerning symptoms such as, hair loss, and difficulty concentrating and sleeping. There are some despite the facts prevented that believe this virus is harmless and as a community I urge you to take a moment and look at those hurting. To aid in understanding the trauma this pandemic has caused, I interviewed some of those affected.

After interviewing a college student with an active lifestyle, I learned that she and her boyfriend contracted the virus early this year. She described it as the worst thing she has ever experienced and constantly felt a weight on her chest, disabling headaches, and lost her ability to taste and smell. Months later, she has not fully gotten those senses back. Her boyfriend on the other hand, felt better quickly and did not experience symptoms throughout the entirety of his experience. Not only was she suffering from physical pain, but her mental health as well. Recovery involves missing work, not being able to have the comfort of family and friends, and feeling alone. One of the scariest realizations she had in her experience was knowing that no one truly knew what to do, and there was no guarantee of what would become of her condition. After both of their recoveries, it was revealed that her boyfriend was suffering from lung damage as a result of the virus and affects his ability to perform at his job, and small tasks in his personal life. While every experience is different, we must show compassion and support to the factors we don’t fully understand about this virus.

If you or someone you know is dealing with post-covid symptoms regardless of age or severity, please visit www.getmentalwellness.org for information on support meetings and resources. Let’s all work together as a community to not only break the stigma surrounding mental health, but surrounding this pandemic as well.

Improving mental health In the new normal

By: Shauna Smith

In recent years, support for mental health and mental health resources have increased gradually. We as a society are long past the outdated ways of shock therapy and are instead more focused on natural remedies that improve the wellbeing of others. With Covid-19, these practices are essential in order to maintain the balance of everyday life. Poor mental health impacts relationships, physical health, performance in work and school, and makes it hard to complete the simplest tasks. Due to this, it is imperative you take a moment and follow these simple practices to change your mindset.

Spend less time with the screens (This does not mean be uninformed) 

Watching the news all day and everyday is extremely unsettling and can dramatically decrease your mood. While it is important to know what is going on in the world around you, it should never consume you. Any type of cognitive overload is disheartening whether it is television, social media, or cramming too hard before a test. Stay connected and present! (This would be a great time to try something you have always wanted to do!)

Stay as physically healthy as you can

If you are anything like me and you don’t like to sleep, this can be a tough one. However, sleep and a good diet is vital to strong physical health. Incorporating daily exercise into your routine even for a short period of time per day Is life changing in improving your physical health and your overall mood. Following a ten minute yoga flow before work or going for daily walks, is a great start to increase your endurance to physical activity. 

Stay connected!

Like many of us who have loved ones that we cannot see, it is so important to stay emotionally connected even if you cannot be physically connected, utilize apps such as, Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime! For those in businesses, it would be helpful to find online networking events and collaborate with other groups in your occupation. For students, this would be a great time to get involved with online internships and seminars. 

Stop the spread of false information

While it can be extremely alarming to see the headlines of articles and may be tempting to share with others, please be aware of who is writing the article and how credible the source is. The spread of false news can worsen the improvement towards a cure and can greatly discourage those coping with the effects of the virus. We all want this to be over and need info with reliability only. 

Remember in this hard time to spread love, empathy, and kindness. While it is important to care for others, please make yourself a priority and find things to implement in your life that your mind and body will thank you for. 

Covid-19 & it’s impact on Mental Health

By: Shauna Smith

It is hard to believe that one year ago, March would have changed our lives drastically. Around this time, many college students like myself believed we were getting an extended spring break and that this illness spreading around the world was some false joke. We quickly began to see this was serious and we would be forced to adjust to a new normal. 

Many questions consumed the world such as, How did this begin?, When does it end?, What will life be like following this?, These are questions that have remained unanswered and yet, minimal questions have been asked about the well-being of those in isolation. It is no surprise to anyone that this has been detrimental to mental health and those who have suffered with mental health issues previously are the worst they’ve ever been. According to kff.org, 4 in 10 adults have reported symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorders as a result of the pandemic that have impacted their sleep, eating, increase In alcohol consumption, and worsening chronic conditions. Before the pandemic, about 1 in 5 Americans were impacted by anxiety and depression was the leading cause of disability, as stated by the Indiana University Health Department. Not only is contracting the virus a large risk to mental health, but the conditions and panic surrounding it. 

Unfortunately, it has taken this pandemic for many to realize the disabling effects of mental health challenges and has created an understanding that it should have always been a priority in this country and this community. People everyday have lost loved ones, their occupations, and felt the the stress of their children not being able to attend schools. Younger individuals have missed social interactions with their peers, a personal learning experience, and some have been forced to move back home after experiencing their independence. As we get used to life during a pandemic, we must never get used to a life where mental wellness is not a priority. 

So how do we combat this and provide support to those in need? 

We can provide support to those who need us by looking for the signs that they are suffering. Depression and anxiety look different for many of those that struggle and it can be brought to light by having the difficult conversations necessary to understand each individual’s situation. In a time when many are closed off and in fear of the world, I challenge us all to find kindness, to help those around us and to spread love in this discouraging and challenging time. With all of our efforts, Covid will not last forever and we must remain focused that when it does end, we will continue to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health.