MAKE IT OKAY . . . to learn about, talk about, know about mental health. If this is something that you avoid thinking or talking about, perhaps it's because the language of mental health and mental illness is unclear about what's good health and what's ill health. Just as with most health conditions, there is a continuum of extent and severity, stability and instability. The MN Department of Health addresses the dilemma of describing the difference between mental well-being and mental illness. In an attempt to distinguish good mental health from poor mental health, from severe mental illness to no mental illness, one may consider positive mental health as one end of the continuum with the opposite as having a 'diagnosable mental condition.' In between there are those individuals being treated effectively, said to be in recovery. For the scope and purpose of this information and education offering, this author will address three significant areas: 1) Public understanding of mental health; 2) Personal understanding of mental health and illness in self and others; 3) Recognizing and responding to crises.
I. Public Understanding:
Characteristics of emotional well-being include (but not limited to) life satisfaction, a sense of self-worth, positive personal relationships, self-awareness and acceptance, autonomy. In community, there are various opportunities to impact these aspects of life. Fostering positive social bonds, relationships, skills and meaninfgul support is a continuous process of community life which enhances well-being and resilience for members of the community.
II. Personal Understanding:
Individual relationships with trusted, safe, and competent perople provide social connectedness and a sense of belonging. Personal skills that contribute to well-being include having a sense of hope, self-sufficiency, purpose, self-regulation, and problem solving skills. Stress in one's life can diminish the level of wellness. Some proven actions that can strengthen mental health include good nutrition, adequate sleep, regular exercise, a practice of gratitude and mindfulness, along with a sense of belonging and community.
III. Recognizing and responding to crises:
Everyone, adults, teens and children, experience stress at times. Stress can help people develop the skills to cope with new situations in life. When stress is severe enough to overwhelm a person's ability to take care of themselves, it indicates a change in the continuum of mental well-being and mental ill-health. There are healthy ways to cope with stress, including reaching out to resources of healthcare and support.
Feeling emotional and nervous or having trouble sleeping and/or eating can all be normal reactions to stress. There are ways to respond to such stress that can put problems in perspective, which can reduce stress:
- Take care of yourself: as mentioned above, eat healthy; engage in regular exercise; get plenty of sleep; give yourself a break;
- Talk to a parent, trusted friend, counselor, doctor, or pastor;
- Recognize when you need help and seek out that help;
- Keep a journal which can help identify triggers of stress, effects of coping measures, effects of treatments.
Suicide, taking one's own life, is a tragic reaction to stressful life situations – and all the more tragic because suicide can be prevented. Whether you are considering suicide or know someone who feels suicidal, learn suicide warning signs and how to reach out for immediate help and professional clinical care. You may save a life, your own or someone else's.
It may seem like there's no way to solve your problems and that suicide is the only to end the pain. But you can take steps to stay safe, until such time that you can enjoy your life again.
Warning signs aren't always obvious, and they do vary from person to person. Suicide warning signs or thoughts include:
- Talking about suicide;
- Acquiring firearms and/or stock-piling prescription drugs;
- Withdrawing from social contacts, isolating from friends and family;
- Extremes of mood swings without obvious reason;
- Being preoccupied with death, dying or violence;
- Feeling trapped or hopeless about a situation;
- Increased use of drugs or alcohol;
- Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns;
- Doing risky or self-destructive things, including reckless driving;
- Giving away belongings or getting affairs in order when there's no logical explanation for doing so;
- Saying goodbye to people as if they won't be seen again;
- Developing personality changes or being severely anxious or agitated, particularly when other symptoms in this list are also present.
Warning signs aren't always obvious, and they may vary. Some people make their intentions clear, while others do not. Please make note of the emergency contact numbers below; post them by your home phone, and enter them in your mobile phone contacts list. You never know when that phone call may save a life.
All emergencies: 911
CRISIS HOTLINE 612-379-6363; or statewide MN 866-379-6363
NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE: 800-273 TALK (800-273-8255)
METRO MENTAL HEALTH 612-596-1223
Suicide Awareness Voices for Education 952-946-7998
There is much more information available; a few options can be accessed at the following websites: