May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Prioritize your own mental wellness in May. We’ve all been through a lot lately. As we persevere, let’s find joy in making our mental health a priority. What makes you happy?

The attached template, 8 Dimensions of Wellness, from SAMHSA, is an easy way of establishing a self-care plan. List three things under each of the Dimensions that are important to you.

If you aren’t doing so, you should make a plan to practice some type of self-care daily. Make a plan today to care for your own mental health.

Mental Wellness: Redefining the Meaning of Health

On this, the last day of National Public Health Week, we bring up mental wellness as a component of public health. Thanks to our readers for celebrating this week with us, thanks to all the health care providers in our community for taking care of local residents, and especially thanks to the team at the Malheur County Health Department. We see you, and your work is appreciated.

For science.
Mental health is a critical component of public health. It consists of emotional, psychological and social well-being and is important from childhood through adulthood. But many people live with mental illness – health conditions which change the way we think, feel or behave, which can affect our lives and our work. In the United States, mental illness is one of the most common health conditions. Each year, one in five Americans will experience mental illness. Fifty percent of mental illness starts by the age of 14, and 75% begins by the age of 24. People who identify as being two or more races are more likely to report mental illness than other races, followed by American Indian/Alaska Native, Caucasian and Black populations. For all racial groups, except American Indian/Alaska Native, women are more likely than men to receive mental health services.

For action.
Advocacy for mental health is crucial, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic. Ask Congress to make mental health services readily available during the current and future public health emergencies. Get involved in Project 2025 — an initiative to reduce the annual rate of suicide. Learn about suicide prevention and intervention by joining the National Alliance on Mental Illness  or APHA’s Mental Health Section. And if you or someone you know is in need of mental health service, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s national helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.

For health.
The COVID-19 pandemic can affect mental health in many ways, including through loss of a loved one, isolation due to physical distancing mandates, exposure to the virus and loss of income. Given the past year’s strain, it’s not surprising health care workers have a high risk of developing mental illness. Strategies like being physically active, getting a full night’s sleep, eating a well-balanced diet, practicing gratitude, participating in activities you enjoy, developing coping skills, meditating and connecting with others can improve mental health. People who engage in physical activity have fewer days of poor mental health than people who do not exercise. Talking to a licensed therapist, joining a support group or 12-step program or considering medication under the supervision of a physician can all be beneficial.

Where you are.
There is no single cause for mental illness, and certain childhood risk factors, including growing up in poverty or experiencing abuse, can be an indicator for mental illness later in life. Genetics, isolation and use of alcohol or drugs are other contributing factors as well. Unaddressed mental health challenges can have an impact on employment, housing stability, safety and a range of other issues. This underscores the urgency of access to better treatment and coping options for those most at risk. Prevention, early detection and treatment of mental health conditions can lead to improved physical and community health. Public health can incorporate mental and emotional health development and promotion into prevention strategies and activities. This can make health promotion more effective and protect people from other issues that have lasting physical and mental health impacts, such as community and interpersonal violence, tobacco use and houselessness.

Information provided by the American Public Health Association.

How community can help during a pandemic

The Oregon Health Authority recently asked people in Oregon to share stories of how they were supported by others when they came down with COVID-19.

Enduring a pandemic can be a lot less stressful when we lift up each other, tend to one another’s needs and reach out when we need help. It can be easy to be overwhelmed by bad news, online hostility and feelings of hopelessness and loneliness.

But it may help to remember your community, whatever it may look like – family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, care givers or social workers, and to be there for each other.

We understand that not everyone has a social support system. Our website (http://ow.ly/fLPg50IoOGb) offers a list of crisis support hotlines, including for mental health and youth, as well as contact information for local mental health programs, listed by county.

Youth crisis line available to Oregon teens

Do you know a teen who could use someone to talk to? Maybe they don’t want to see a counselor, or can’t wait for an appointment. Perhaps they just want to talk to someone who can relate to what they’re going through, and won’t judge them. Oregon YouthLine, a free teen-to-teen crisis support and help line (link here), is staffed during the afternoon by teens. Youth may choose to call, text, chat or email.

If you are a teen who just needs help getting through today, YouthLine may be the resource you need.