May is National Mental Health Month. Mental Health Month raises awareness of trauma and the impact it can have on the physical, emotional and mental well-being of children, families and communities.
Mental illness does not discriminate; it affects all ages, all races, all cultures and all socioeconomic levels.
The 2021 theme for Mental Health Month is Tools 2 Thrive.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the mental health of people of all ages. Now, more than ever, it is critical to reduce the stigma around mental health struggles, because that stigma often prevents individuals from seeking help.
What does it mean to be mentally healthy as a child? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) answers the question perfectly: “Being mentally healthy during childhood means reaching developmental and emotional milestones and learning healthy social skills and how to cope when there are problems. Mentally healthy children have a positive quality of life and can function well at home, in school, and in their communities.”
Mental health is not simply the absence of a mental disorder. Let me repeat that — mental health is not simply the absence of a mental disorder. Meaning, just because you may not have a clinically diagnosed mental disorder does not mean you are mentally healthy. The opposite is true as well, just because you may have a clinically diagnosed mental disorder does not mean you are not mentally healthy. You most certainly can have a mental disorder and also be mentally healthy. Just as you may be mentally unhealthy and not have a mental health disorder.
“Mental health is important to overall health. Mental disorders are chronic health conditions — conditions that last a long time and often don’t go away completely — that can continue through the lifespan. Without early diagnosis and treatment, children with mental disorders can have problems at home, in school, and in forming friendships. Mental disorders can also interfere with a child’s healthy development, causing problems that can continue into adulthood,” according to the CDC.
Taking steps to have your mental health in check is so important to your well-being. It is just as important to make sure the children and youth in your life have their mental health in check for their well-being, too. Mental health is impacted by many factors, such as diet, physical activity, stress, lack of sleep, etc.
Establishing a healthy diet that incorporates plenty of water, fruits, vegetables and proteins is essential. Physical activity also plays a vital role in mental health. Simply getting outside in the fresh air and soaking up some sun (an excellent source of vitamin D) can make a huge positive impact on your mental health. Taking a quick 5-10 minute stroll outside can have a positive impact on your mental health as well.
Children can also improve their mental health by getting out from behind the screens (television, video games, computer, tablets, etc.) Limiting the amount of time you allow your child to have on “screen time” is a great start to improving mental health as well. Get outside and enjoy not only the fresh air and sunshine but also some quality family time. I believe we often forget how many things factor into our mental health, as well as the small steps we can take to improve our mental health. Sometimes even after trying to take steps to improve mental health, we need to seek professional help. Life at times can be difficult and treatment, such as employee assistance programs that offer counseling, may help one through this time.
Henry County Coordinated School Health wants to challenge you take the step(s) to improve your mental health. For more information on mental health visit www.mhanational.org/mental-health-month. If you have any questions or comments, please contact your school’s nurse or call 644-3916.
KAYLA GLOVER is a registered nurse, the Henry County School System’s family and community coordinator, and nurse at Lakewood School. Her email address is gloverk@ henryk12.net.