Checking on the welfare of our mental health is perhaps one of the most important things we can do in life to ensure our sustainability. Poor mental health can negatively affect your ability to work, communicate, cultivate healthy relationships, and lead fulfilling lives. As we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, it is important to emphasize how maintaining proper mental health is key to a person’s overall health and wellness. We spoke with licensed mental health professional and Director of Programs for United Way partner agency, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) St. Louis, Jessie Brown, to answer some of the most important questions surrounding mental health.
How is the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) St. Louis helping people overcome mental health challenges?
Some of the biggest things we focus on are education, advocacy, awareness, and support. We offer support groups for people living with mental health conditions as well as support groups for their family members and friends.
We also have educational classes where people can learn about particular mental health conditions, how to support someone in their life who may be dealing with one, and how to take care of themselves in the midst of that. Everything that we do at NAMI is completely free of charge and it’s peer-led, so it’s being led by people dealing with mental health challenges themselves. So, we’re able to lend that personal perspective to mental health and talk to people not as counselors or social workers, but as human beings that are going through similar situations and challenges.
How can an individual prioritize their mental health?
It can happen in little ways like taking a little extra time out of the day to do something nice for ourselves like relaxing and drinking a glass of tea, taking a walk, spending time with people we care about, and more. Then there are some of those bigger ways like getting set up with a counselor and meeting with that person on a regular basis or speaking with a doctor and discussing treatments to help with our mental health.
It’s about listening to ourselves as far as – What do I need? Who are the people that I care about that care about me? What are some of those things that give me life?
Identifying all of these things is crucial to taking care of our mental health.
What are some of the negative forces that you see in today’s society that are plaguing people’s mental health?
Putting a lot of stress on ourselves and not paying attention to our bodies, our minds and when we’ve reached our limits. A lot of times we just keep it moving, we just keep adding more and more things to our plates, and we don’t look at our physical and mental health to make sure it’s on the right track.
Also, a lot of times we are so concerned with taking care of others like our kids and family members, that we don’t always stop and check on ourselves and make sure we’re getting the same kind of care. We have to take time for ourselves the same way we do for people we love and care about by practicing self-compassion.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about mental health?
That it is something that makes you less than. Some people look at mental illness as a weakness of character, that they’re lacking something, or they’re not as good as someone else, and that’s simply not true.
We all have to take care of our mental health just as we do our physical health. Sometimes your mental health can be in a good place, but sometimes it’s not. Just like with our physical health, we have to do very specific things to take care of it. We don’t blame people for having physical health conditions and we should do the same for people with mental health conditions. They’re treatable, they’re common, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
What are some of the signs that a person may need to seek some form of therapy or counseling?
I would say if you notice any kind of change in your behavior, thought processes, or feelings that you’re experiencing, you’ll definitely want to have a conversation about those. If you’re feeling down or sad and those feelings aren’t going away after more than a couple of weeks and it’s impacting your ability to function, I would definitely talk to a mental health professional or your doctor.
But with that being said, I think everyone could use a little counseling at some point. It’s 50 minutes that’s just about you. You get to decide what you talk about and don’t talk about. I personally see therapy/counseling as a form of self-care. I see a counselor myself and after a lot of these sessions I feel really energized, I feel lighter, and like I’m ready to take on whatever’s next.
What should be the goal when seeking mental health support?
The goal should be to get healthier and become your best self.
I live with anxiety, and I work very hard to treat it. I’ve been seeing a counselor and doing whatever I can to take care of it and manage it so that I can be successful and go do things that, if I wasn’t taking care of my mental health, there’s no way I would be able to do.
Take action now:
- Find out how to support a loved one’s mental health.
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