by Michael Vargas, MSW
As we transition through pandemic scares, lockdowns, and restrictions we can hopefully begin to discuss recovery. For many, coping is now a priority as we continue to live under new norms regarding the pandemic. May is Mental Health Month where we can spread awareness about stigma and promote a healthier community as we seek recovery from the pandemic. Through educating ourselves and others we can serve to benefit those we care about but also benefit our mental health as well. The pandemic has been a trigger for many whether they have been diagnosed with a mental illness or have begun to experience symptoms of them. Feelings of panic, hopelessness, fear, worry, distress, isolation whether voluntary or involuntary, and loneliness have impacted everyone. For others these recent events have also been traumatic for them as younger generations are overwhelmed and struggling to cope.
Many individuals have had their outlets limited as gyms, social venues, community centers, airports, and sporting events have been shut down. This has limited their ability to cope effectively as we are all social creatures and having a human connection is a natural need. Throughout these transitions and restrictions there has been a perpetuation of stigma regarding mental illness. Despite recent global events many still struggle with fears of judgment and labels. Some of these stigmas are still predominant in communities of color as access to resources and care can still be limited. Lacking the understanding or compassion towards individuals struggling with mental illness can be detrimental to them and to our society. When we lack empathy we can limit our ability to heal as a society especially after recent global stressors.
We can begin to heal by educating ourselves by understanding how mental illness can affect functioning and the overall messages individuals may receive. Utilizing person first language can be very beneficial as it removes labels from people and separates the person from the diagnosis. Challenging misconceptions of mental illness can also be beneficial as we can educate others on stigma and the harmful message it gives. We as individuals can also look inward as we can also equip ourselves with resources to support someone in crisis and also cope with our stressors. Methods of grounding, deep breathing, mindfulness and meditation can be useful in moments when we ourselves are overwhelmed or even when our loved ones can benefit from our support. However, these things may not be a substitute for professional support. It can be a step in the right direction as we can welcome conversations around mental illness without judgment or criticism.
Hopefully we can begin to heal as a community as we make an effort to educate ourselves on stigmas impacting mental health but also address our own biases as well. We can equip ourselves with resources to support one another especially during these difficult times.
If you are struggling with overwhelming feelings or are struggling to feel present here are some resources that can help:
Deep Inner Stillness Guided Meditation
Daily Calm 10 minute meditation
Mindful Breathing Meditation:
And if you or a loved one or someone you may know are having thoughts of harm and considering suicide, please contact 911 if there is imminent harm. Also in the event they are considering suicide please contact one of these numbers:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Hours: Available 24 hours.
Text NAMI to 741741
24-hour text message support for those in crisis.
Crisis hotline, mental health evaluation, and other services for youth and adults with Medicaid.