After you read the blog - be sure to review the Mindful Living tips, check out the guided meditation and answer the prompts in the Reflect & Journal section.
For me, July is a month of self-reflection. It marks the midpoint in the year when I sit still and contemplate how the first half of the year is unfolding – emotionally, physically and spiritually. I consider my mental health, my relationships, my service life and my willingness to acknowledge my own pain. I do a self-check to learn whether my aspirations to live fully are being realized. I explore what I can do differently to be the bravest version of myself.
As I reflect on the changes in my life, I am struck by the profound impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on global mental health. The staggering data paints a grim picture: an alarming 615 million individuals worldwide are currently living with a mental health condition. Even more disheartening is the fact that 60% of these individuals are not receiving the support they desperately need. The urgency of this issue has motivated me to help spread awareness and understanding of mental health basics, empowering others to be part of this important conversation.
First off, let’s address the unspoken truth that mental health challenges are universal. They are not limited to specific demographics or groups of people. Mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorders, suicide and substance abuse occur in individuals from all walks of life.
But not everyone gets the care they need. For instance:
Those in lower socioeconomic groups often have higher rates of mental health conditions and lower access to mental health services.
Minority groups often face higher rates of mental health conditions and are less likely to receive appropriate care.
Those in rural or remote areas often have fewer mental health resources available, making it more difficult to receive timely and appropriate care.
Younger children and older adults often have less access to mental health services.
We can dive deeper by acknowledging another basic fact that mental health isn’t binary, split into “healthy” or “unhealthy” categories. Rather, mental health exists on a continuum, covering a vast array of experiences and conditions. It’s more than just our thoughts, emotions and actions. It includes our ability to deal with stress, overcome daily hurdles, and handle life’s ebbs and flows. Our mental well-being also influences our capacity to cultivate and sustain relationships, make decisions, experience happiness, and navigate life’s peaks and valleys.
Mental health isn’t a solitary issue! It’s a complex, pervasive social crisis, reinforcing the need to prioritize our own mental health, support others in their journeys, and work toward building a society that values and prioritizes mental well-being for all.
Essentially, we all fall somewhere on the continuum of mental health, and it's both our personal and shared duty to foster awareness and acceptance regarding mental health issues. Additionally, we need to do whatever we can to eliminate the harmful stereotypes, discriminatory behavior and stigmas that individuals place on mental health conditions. No matter what the magnitude, feelings of being stigmatized exacerbate symptoms for fear of discrimination.
Consider what happens when people are misinformed and stigmatize mental health conditions. They are actually causing harm to those suffering because these stigmas cause feelings of blame and shame. They create feelings of “being othered.” Individuals who are in real need of support become further isolated and even reluctant to ask for help or get treatment.
Try to imagine what this scenario would feel like. What physical sensations do you experience when you put yourself in the shoes of a person being stigmatized? What emotions do you feel?
So, what can we do to be more mindful of others and take a more active role in changing perceptions around mental health? There are many options:
Practice empathy when you see someone struggling
Ask questions so you can understand
Open up so you can relate
Keep the conversation going
Every single one of us has a role to play. Your actions and words can make real change. The more transparent about your own well-being, it humanizes the experience of mental health struggles in others and fosters a deeper sense of understanding and empathy.
Let’s talk openly about mental health as the more openly we discuss the concept of mental health, the more we can change worldviews and help break down the stigmas surrounding it.