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May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Filed Under: Education, Family, Featured, Health

May is significant, not only for cinco de mayo and Carnaval, but because it is also Mental Health Awareness month. Too many people still view mental health as an issue for “crazy” people. Not only does that perpetuate a false and destructive stigma, but mental health is not the same as mental illness. Nevertheless, one in five individuals experience some form of mental illness—making it an issue that has likely affected us, members of our families, or those with whom we live and work. The truth is that mental health is as much a community issue as it is an individual one.

At some point in our lives, most of us have experienced anxiety or tremendous stress, and nearly as many of us have some sort of phobia or endured a traumatic incident. Trauma manifests itself differently depending on the developmental stage of the person. Trauma for a child appears differently than it does for an adult, and trauma experienced by youth looks different to us than trauma experienced by an elder. We are often able to recover from these difficult situations because of the strength and resilience we’ve acquired over the course of our lives, with the support of family, friends, and community. Having a strong sense of identity, loving families and friends we trust, and an engaged community where we feel we belong help us build resilience so we are better equipped to deal with adversity in the future.

An unknown but large percentage of people have experienced significant trauma. When this happens, people may experience ongoing anxiety, insecurity, social withdrawal, and emotional pain. Latino immigrants fleeing their countries due to social unrest, youth exposed to significant violence, women who have been sexually assaulted or raped, veteran survivors of war, and immigrant children separated from their parents due to irrational immigration laws—all may suffer from trauma. Since none of us, including the traumatized person, may realize the reason for his/her behavior is trauma, we tend to negatively characterize the person. For example, we don’t consider that the homeless guy sleeping on the sidewalk may be a veteran, or that the immigrant youth who keeps getting in trouble doesn’t trust the police who previously separated him from his parents against their will. Unfortunately, vilifying this behavior only further alienates and stigmatizes the traumatized person.

Recognizing that trauma may be much more pervasive than was once thought, increased efforts are underway for service organizations to become “trauma-informed.” Here at IFR we believe that it is important for whole communities to support the recovery and healing of the traumatized, and promote resilience throughout our community. During Mental Health Awareness month, we hope to advance mental well-being and resilience among all of us. In that spirit, we offer a few suggestions, and encourage all to develop your own resilience-building activities:

  •  Engage in a spiritually meaningful activity, whatever that is for you.
  • Participate in some sort of physical activity each day to allow your mind and body to breathe.
  • Regardless of how busy you are, carve out time each week to spend quality time with loved ones.
  • Listen to your favorite music.
  • Attend a community event that positively connects you to the vibrancy of your community.
  • Consider volunteering as a mentor or community activist on an issue that is important to you.
  • Be supportive of family and friends, and encourage them to seek mental health or emotional support services as needed.
  • Take at least 5-10 minutes to let your mind rest and release the stresses of the day.

Support Mental Health Awareness month by having a peaceful and resilient month!

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