For this post, I was able to chat with Sophia Hartman, who is a a Qualified Mental Health Professional working as a community based counselor for children, adolescents, and adults in Virginia. In addition to answering my questions, Sophia also supplied me with resourceful sites which I used while researching for this post and will be pulling from as well. So, what is mental health? And why is it so important? "Mental health is a disorder of the brain," Sophia explained, "it can be caused by several different factors which include things like trauma/abuse, genetics, social influences, or chemistry of the brain." As for why it is important, "there is a wide range of mental health disorders which can affect your mood, emotions, behaviors, cognitive processing and physiological responses," she explained that "a mental health concern is often identified as a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and impact an individual’s ability to function in every-day life.”
This post is personal for me because like many others I am struggling with my mental health. I noticed a few years ago that my anxiety was creeping up on me. It wasn't often but I'd have moments where I'd worry that my life was going by too fast and I hadn't really accomplished anything. It gradually kept getting worse. Then Covid hit and my anxiety was probably the worst it had ever been. Not to mention some other personal things happened that just made me feel like I was drowning, and I began to realize I was using alcohol to cope. While I'm going to counseling now -shout out to Thrive Counseling!- it was not an easy thing to admit I needed to do. I was afraid of what people might think of me or how they may look at me. I felt like something was wrong with me. That's the stigma.
And me being afraid to admit it and struggling on my own was an example of how the stigma can be just as debilitating. Now I feel much better. I feel like I have a grasp on things, I'm finding better ways to cope with stress and anxiety, I am journaling. I still have bad days, but they are easier to handle with help.
One question that came to my mind was how to check in on yourself as far as your mental health. "SELF CARE!" was Sophia's emphatic response. Self care is the best things you can do for yourself. Some ways you can practice self care include but are not limited to: getting professional care if you need, getting physically active, helping others, developing coping skills, getting enough sleep, and connecting with others. Those came from MentalHealth.gov -another excellent site Sophia sent to me. It gives other ways to maintain a positive mental health practices and the benefits of maintaining positive mental health. It also gives a list of early warning signs of potential mental health concerns. Some of those include, but are not limited to: eating or sleeping too much or too little, pulling away from people and usual activities, low or no energy, experiencing severe mood swings, smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual, and/or difficulty performing day to day tasks.
For more information on mental health please check out these sites!
www.mentalhealth.gov (This is where I got a lot of my research from and I highly recommend! It gives you information about mental health, early warning signs, tips about self care, and resources if you need to reach out.)
www.bringchange2mind.org -This was the site with the videos about stigmas and how to change them. Full of information!
(This site is the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. It has information on mental health as well as resources if you need help as well as stories from other people who have struggled themselves.)
Home - Mental Health Is Health (This is a great site to figure out your emotions and figure out a way to deal with them. Its helpful and helps you focus on what it is you are dealing with and gives you resources to help you.)
If you need places to reach out to I would recommend:
www.betterhelp.com -it is virtual and you can pick a counselor that is right for you. This is a great site because it can be done anywhere because it is virtual.
Also I personally want to shout out Thrive Counseling, they are in the Charlotte, NC area and that is where I am counseling at. If you are in the area, I would highly recommend them. They are very sweet and you can do in person or virtual as schedules require.
And if you are thinking of harming yourself please, please call this number! The National Suicide Hotline: 800 273 8255