By: Sean Palas, LCSW
Some of you may remember the cartoon series G.I Joe from the 1980s. When the cartoon would air, each episode included an educational, public message for the audience. Each message would end with the GI Joe character saying the slogan “knowing is half the battle.”
The month of May is designated as Mental Health Awareness month. In normal times, we honor Mental Health Month across the country with live events and gatherings held in the spirit of recreation, education/eliminating stigma, and empowerment. But of course we live in a “new normal” now, and, as a Behavioral Health Provider, it’s time to practice what I preach and adapt. Like the GI Joe slogan says, half the battle of treating mental health is “knowing.”
According to industry statistics, 1 in 5 people will experience mental illness during their lifetime. That means mental illness touches all of our lives in some way. We may have a diagnosis ourselves or have a family member or friend who has a mental illness. Chances are one of our friends, family, or co-workers has been personally impacted by mental illness in their families.
This statistic is sometimes shocking to read because mental illness is often “hidden.” Sometimes this is because we do not identify the symptoms we are experiencing as anxiety, depression, grief, substance abuse, etc. Other times mental health issues are hidden because we fear the stigma that is attached to them. Will my friends, family, provider, or coworkers treat me differently if they knew I had these symptoms?
In these difficult times, Mental Health Month becomes increasingly important. By honoring this annual tradition, organizations across the country increase awareness/education regarding mental health and therefore reduce stigma to empower people to seek the help they need.
In alignment with this goal, this month we will provide mental health resources (please scroll down to the bottom of this article for those resources) in addition to the regular integrated care that we provide at Valley-Wide. These will include topics such as owning our feelings, coping with loss, and creating a healthy routine. We will also provide a link for a mental health screening one can take anonymously online at mhascreening.org.
In closing, I would like to note that we know there are many parallels between physical and mental health. Mental health, like our physical health, is something that is fluid and constantly changing. Being educated and proactive in maintaining our wellbeing are critical to both aspects of our healthcare. As we seek to treat the whole person when it comes to our patients and to reduce the stigma that prevents them from seeking help, let us not forget that mental and physical health are also integrated within our own wellbeing.
On behalf of your behavioral health team here at Valley Wide, I would like to wish you a happy and healthy May.
Sean Palas, LCSW
Behavioral Health Provider
Valley-Wide Health Systems