What Can I Do?
Last year I began my journey as a mental health blogger. In this past year, I am happy to share that the most common question I hear is, “What can I do?” I have learned that although there are many obstacles to mental health improvement, the need for passionate individuals to spread the word is not one of them. Instead, I have come to recognize that there are a lot of willing and interested individuals who recognize the importance of mental health, want to do more, and don’t know where to start. If this applies to you, first of all, thank you! Recognizing mental health is essential is a huge step in promoting mental health. I hope these tips help you to transform your intention into action.
There are hundreds of mental health concerns, and raising awareness about mental health does not mean you have to become a diagnostic expert. However, it may be helpful to learn general, yet important, information about mental health. You can learn more by attending a course, engaging in meetings, discussing with a mental health professional, or researching reputable online sources.
Helpful topics to increase your mental health knowledge and awareness may include:
• Statistics pertaining to the scope and impact of mental health (e.g., NAMI, NIMH, CDC)
• What factors may influence mental health issues
• Typical mental health symptoms
• How to seek mental health help for yourself, a child, a family member, a friend, or a colleague.
Start a Discussion
You can use your enhanced awareness to begin to raise consciousness in others as well. Conversations are an opportunity for you to learn and share your knowledge. This may include finding an active mental health meeting in your communityor starting one of your own.
Spread the Word
Dialogues are a great start. However, your efforts do not need to be restricted to your local area. Mental health organizations support the use of social media in expanding awareness, promoting mental health care, engaging in important conversations, and contributing to the community. You can spread the word and connect globally through social media. From this angle, spreading the word is easy. Your contribution could be as simple as a post, tweet, or boomerang. Sharing your own story can be inspiring. If you choose to do so, please be careful to not avoid triggering language.
Say No to Stigma
There are many myths about mental health. These lies can cause embarrassment, shame, guilt, and could build obstacles that cause people to avoid seeking the help they may need. Choose to be conscientious of the language you use and the messages you convey about mental health. Be mindful of perpetuating stereotypes, devaluing others, and sharing inaccurate information. If you hear this type of language, perhaps you have the opportunity to open a dialogue and politely dispel the underlying stigma.
Share your time for the cause. For example, you can help on the suicide prevention lifelineor the Trevor hotline. You can connect with other passionate mental health advocates by contributing to a local event. In addition to listings from your local organizations, NAMI has a list of eventsthroughout the year. No local happening? Perhaps this is your opportunity to start your own. Further, online mental health communities are flourishing with opportunities to connect regardless of the advocacy in your area.
Nurture your own Mental Health
Mental health is important for us all. Your contribution begins with you. Start by considering what you do for your own self-care. Resources such as the Mental Health America toolkitmay be useful in assessing your present mental health and setting small goals to help you achieve a balanced, happy life. You may notice that you can’t handle it all alone and that is okay, you don’t have to. It may be time to seek the help of a mental health professional or support group connection to begin your mental health journey.
Dr. Shainna Ali is a mental health clinician, educator, and advocate who is dedicated to highlighting the important role of mental health in fostering happiness, fulfillment, and overall wellness. She is the owner of Integrated Counseling Solutions, a counseling and consulting practice in Central Florida. In her practice, she uses a strengths-based, creative approach that empowers clients on their journey. Her areas of interest include exploring identity and culture, emotional intelligence, & creativity methods in counseling. Dr. Ali teaches counseling courses to students at the University of Central Florida and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
Beyond instructing, Dr. Ali promotes mental health awareness in her blog, Modern Mentality, and also in her regular contributions to the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the American Counseling Association. She is a firm believer in the importance of self-care, and in her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, playing with her German Shepherd, practicing yoga, exercising, learning new lessons, and traveling the globe.