May is Mental Health Month, and while most everyone agrees that mental health is something we should pay more attention to, we also tend to think it’s an issue that doesn’t apply to us.
In 2017, the Let’s Talk Colorado mental health campaign asked the FrameWorks Institute to investigate Coloradans’ attitudes on the subject, and the findings revealed an interesting contradiction. Though Coloradans unanimously said they believe in supporting people with mental illness, those same folks didn’t see a connection between their own day-to-day challenges (stress, worry, anxiety) and the larger subject of mental health.
If we’re going to live happy, fulfilling personal lives, we have to understand what mental health means and how it affects all of us.
Though we often associate mental health with mental illness, the reality is that we all have mental health. We all have brains, hearts and lungs, and for us to enjoy life and live it to the fullest we need to pay as much attention to our mental health as we would our blood pressure or a persistent cough.
With that in mind, here are a few tips to define what we mean when we say “mental health.”
Mental health is:
• Balance. When we can handle the ups and downs in our lives, our mental health is good. Every day, things will arise that challenge our mental health, sometimes we handle them easily and sometimes we need to talk it over with someone or seek support to get through them.
• Universal. Everyone has good days, bad days, hectic days, peaceful days- these are all part of our mental health. Worrying about the bills, feeling happy after a good shift at work, feeling anxious about a life change or feeling proud on your child’s birthday all make up our mental health, as are any conditions we may have that make it harder to deal with those feelings.
• Real. A lot of us think that we can “get tough” and overcome conditions like depression or anxiety, or that some fresh air and willpower are all we need to manage stressors and maintain our mental health. The reality is we can’t “power through” depression, anxiety or stress any more than we can ignore chest pains. The best way to cope with these stressors is to talk to someone you trust- a friend, a family member, even a coworker.
You can learn a lot more about mental health, and how we can talk about it in a constructive way, by visiting the Let’s Talk Colorado website: LetsTalkCO.org. It’s filled with information, resources and tips.
There’s even a quick survey to help you understand your own beliefs on the subject.
It may not be easy, it may even be awkward, but it’s important to start these conversations, and to do it from a place of understanding.