Mental Health May
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and given the seemingly endless number of tragic events in our country, we thought it would be a good time to offer some thoughts and advice to help with the emotional impact that we’re all experiencing. After nearly two and a half years, we are still fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Tragically, more than one million Americans have been lost to this terrible virus. Mass shootings have become much more frequent and oddly expected on a regular basis. Hate and racism is at an enormously high-level throughout our society and violence is increasing based on the intolerance of those who feel their skin pigmentation is superior to others. The economy is unpredictable, while inflation continues an upward trajectory, making it even more difficult for us to make ends meet. The toxicity of our political climate is making many of us cynical and lose faith in governmental and leadership. We are blasted, non-stop with social media alerts, news updates and ongoing sensationalized accounts of human tragedy. There are so many more things to list but I’m sure that you understand my point.
Of course, direct support professionals are not immune from feeling the effects of all these negative factors and conditions. Furthermore, the role that direct support professionals provide in the lives of people with disabilities in our society is that of advocate, ambassador, and activist. It is difficult to be a champion for full inclusion while living in a constant state of bad news and trauma (societal and sometimes personal). I know that DSPs are tired and feeling the weight of these times and we must give them some relief.
Given the current state of the world, it is no doubt that many of us are feeling exhausted, hopeless and even depressed, but here is the thing, many of us are unaware, or are in need of a reminder of the available resources that exist to help us with our mental and emotional health.
One place to start is with our own selves. We need to take time every day to reflect on our individual gifts, blessings and the possessions that truly matters – family, friends, children, pets, health and life. We can lose sight very quickly of the things that truly matter. A daily reflection and inventory of those things can be invaluable.
Next, do not isolate yourself. This does not mean one needs to go to parties and socialize every day. It means to reach out to those people in your life who you can trust and with whom you can share your feelings and thoughts. Texting is not the same as a phone call. A phone call is not the same as sharing a cup of coffee with a trusted friend or family member. Zoom is great but hanging out with a loved one is better.
Find a spiritual or meaningful ritual and daily practice. It can take the form of religion, nature, yoga, exercise, music or whatever may appeal to you and “fill your well”. Meditation and prayer can be helpful. Getting involved in clubs, groups or other hobbies/interests and associations (virtually or in person) can bring joy and happiness.
If you’re feeling down, hopeless or depressed, it’s ok to seek professional help. In fact, many employers have employee assistance programs where you can confidentially find some professional counseling supports and services. There is no shame in seeking out mental health assistance and it’s great to have someone with whom you can share your deepest feelings; a person who is trained and paid to be a fair witness and an ally. Therapy can be a life-changer and sometimes even a life saver.
Finally, if you feel that there is absolutely no hope and you are having feelings of suicide or self-harm it is important that you seek immediate help. Suicide hotlines, emergency rooms and even 911 is an option if you are feeling that you just cannot go on another day. You are worth more alive than dead and although you should feel no shame or guilt if you are suicidal, it is a time that you will need someone to get you out of that state of mind. Your life is the most important thing in the world. The power of the mind and emotions can be lethal but also totally possible to heal.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Direct support professionals deserve to have good mental health and all of us at the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals wish you all peace and great mental health this month and always. Below are some resources for you to consider.
Mental Health Awareness Month Resources
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:1-800-273-8255
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in the United States. We’re committed to improving crisis services and advancing suicide prevention by empowering individuals, advancing professional best practices, and building awareness. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has additional resources available here.
SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.
Explore the resources NAMI specifically developed to meet your StigmaFree Company needs. Many of these are ready-to-go and customizable for your specific needs.