Whether the pandemic is ebbing or flowing, or perhaps not even in the context of the pandemic at all, chances are you’ve heard more discussion lately about paying attention to one’s mental health in addition to physical health.
And that’s a great thing – just an awareness that we have a responsibility to take care of ourselves and each other mentally is progress. Yet most people may be lost on where to start. It’s not as if we have mental health first aid kits in our homes, or cabinets full of over-the-counter remedies that address the challenges that can come with the way we feel or the behaviors we exhibit. So how can we provide that very first level of care to ourselves and each other, much like we do when we grab a heating pad for a sore back?
I want to assure every reader that they are indeed equipped to take the initial – and in some ways most important – steps to connect yourself or someone else with the support they need. I want to emphasize that word – connection – because it’s really at the heart of today’s message. Simply feeling connected to someone, or to a community, or to a purpose, can serve to greatly enhance one’s overall wellness.
With that, I want to ask each and every reader to develop a new habit this month, which is Mental Health Awareness Month. The ask is to commit to checking in on someone every single day – just to ask them how they’re doing that day. There is a distinction – asking “how are you” as we do in general greetings will usually warrant the same perfunctory, albeit polite, response. Asking someone “how are you today” can cause the person to consider the question a little differently, and you may receive a more honest or complete response. Try it!
I will expand by saying there aren’t people who need “checked on” more than others. The person who may seem unaffected by the stressors – big and small – that are ever-present is most likely not how they seem, at least not all the time. So check in on people with an equitable approach – there is virtually no one who doesn’t “need” to feel connected on a daily basis.
And of course, it could be you, reader, who could use a check-in. When that is the case, please reach out to someone you trust. Or, you can text “4Hope” to 741-741, or call the local Mobile Response Team to come to you anywhere in Stark County – that number is (330) 452-6000. Both of these services are available 24/7/365; are confidential; anyone can use them regardless of ability to pay; and they will refer you to local, professional resources as needed.
I hope this habit lasts well beyond the month of May, and we are left with a community that’s a little healthier – and more connected.
John Aller, PCC, LICDC
Executive Director, Stark County Mental Health & Addiction Recovery