Did you know May is Mental Health Awareness Month? As the semester and school year come to a close, I am keenly aware of checking in on my students’ well-being…as well as my own. The change of seasons always brings new, and sometimes a multitude of raw, emotions that can be overwhelming for many. As people try to check in on themselves, loved ones, and friends, it is imperative that we break down the stigma of mental health, addiction, and the myriad trials and tribulations people currently face.
I have had several conversations these past few months when friends and colleagues have both remarked that it seems like folks are living on a razor’s edge. We have observed tense interactions in stores and restaurants, and meltdowns by people who have suffered a slight inconvenience. I am unsure whether the entire world is going utterly mad, but I do know that medical providers and therapists have remarked about the increase in the need for people to check in, feel heard, and talk through solutions to help them adjust, survive, and possibly even thrive in their current environments.
I know I have definitely felt more overwhelmed since COVID began and I know I am not alone. I see it with people on the subway. I’ve witnessed my students, who occasionally shut down due to the pressure of school, life, and growing up in these uncertain times. I’ve also had far too many conversations with people from all walks of life who just feel exhausted…by everything.
What can we do to begin to address some of our mental health needs? First, we can acknowledge when we need help and when we need to speak to a licensed professional. Sometimes what is needed is a course of action from a licensed professional who is properly trained to assist you with your problems.
Second, we can spend time in nature. Study after study has shown that even just a few minutes outdoors can decrease your blood pressure and assist you in reorganizing your thoughts. Fresh air, looking at flowers, hearing the birds, and maybe even hugging a tree can do wonders for your overall mental wellbeing.
Lastly, you can visit the American Hospital Association at www.aha.org and review all of their resources on everything from addiction to suicide prevention to overall mental health.
It is important that we not suffer in silence. Be sure to check in on loved ones and use this month to educate yourself about the ways we can all build a more solid foundation for our mental health. We can also use this month to decrease the stigma about seeking help, seeing a therapist, and making changes in our daily lifestyles for the sake of mental health.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University; the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream”; and co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC and host of The Blackest Questions podcast at TheGrio.