Mental Health Awareness

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Trying to tell the difference between expected behaviors and what could be the signs of a mental illness isn’t always easy. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ test that can let someone know if there is mental illness or if actions and thoughts might be typical behaviors of a person. Extension recommends being aware of the common signs discussed in a video from the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI). The video highlights 10 Commons Signs of Mental Health Conditions. NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization. They provide advocacy, education, support and public awareness so that all individuals and families affected by mental illness can build better lives.

Community connections and knowing how to access community resources is a valuable tool when combating mental illness. It becomes most important to reach out to those around you and offer and receive support from others. Your community network can provide many important resources.

Say “yes” when someone asks if they can help. Be specific, tell people what would be helpful to you. People will want to provide the help you really need. Many sources of support are located in the communities in which we live. Often, support from these sources is available at no cost and is made available as a part of the mission of the organization. Some sources of community-based support are:

●      Churches, mosques, synagogues or other communities of faith

●      Local book clubs, playgroups, sports teams, recreation clubs, gardening clubs or other voluntary groups

●      Government or community-based agencies

●      Non-profit organizations or charitable groups

●      Neighbors and neighborhood associations

●      Library or recreation programs

●      Health care providers

There are ways to increase your level of support. Our culture has had a tendency to put a strong emphasis on the ability to ‘do it alone.’ This independence can be valuable, but it often comes at a large personal cost. Instead of this alone mentality, try building community networks. These networks can be a powerful asset in your life. Some people are born into strong community networks, and they never lose them. Others have found a need to repeatedly redevelop the strength of community networks due to losses of key relationships through life changes. Rather than being a sign of weakness, relying on others who care for you and whom you also help is a source of great strength.

Extension recommends the following ideas to get started:

Get involved — Give of your time and talents and be a part of what is happening in your community.

Meet new people — Join a group or organization in which you share a common interest. As you become a part of people’s lives, they will become a part of yours.

Develop trust — As you develop new relationships, some may grow in trust and respect. Foster openness in your relationships.

Practice give and take — Having reciprocal relationships allows one to give from their areas of strength and ability and rely on others to give from their strengths.

Recognize your own strength — It’s so easy to focus on our loss when we are stressed, but looking outward to others in our community may offer a helpful perspective.

Remember, when going through life’s storms, you are not alone. There are others who have been through it, are going through it now, or are eager to help those in need. Reach out and connect.