Spreading the Word About #MentalHealthAwareness

MAY IS MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH. Since 1949, May has been designated as the month to raise awareness and educate the public about: mental illnesses, the realities of living with these conditions; and strategies for attaining mental health and wellness. It also aims to draw attention to suicide, which can be precipitated by some mental illnesses and to reduce the stigma that surrounds mental illnesses.

As the month of May comes to a close, I couldn’t let it end without expressing my sincere gratitude for the opportunities I’ve had so far this year, and this month in particular, to discuss mental health awareness in the workplace. In March, I had the pleasure of presenting at the North Alabama SHRM (NASHRM) Workshop on Creating the Best Place to Work for Your Employee.  In April, I did a video interview for WorkHuman with Dan Tomasulo & Steve Pemberton on Igniting Hope to Combat Mental Health Challenges. This month, in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I co-presented a webcast on Developing Empathy During Times of Uncertainty with Jarik Conrad and wrote a whitepaper on Mental Health in the Workplace During Times of Uncertainty, both for Ultimate Software. Last, but certainly not least, I was interviewed for Osasu Arigbe’s blog. Each of these opportunities was a true honor!

I have dedicated my career to helping people in one form or another, but this by far is the most rewarding. THIS is my mission. I see every aspect of my work, of my life really, through a mental health friendly lens which ties directly into diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. As an HR practitioner, it’s so important to me to help employers understand how critical it is to support employee mental health and show them how to do so. Employees must also understand the importance of maintaining good mental health and that if they are experiencing mental illness or another type of mental health crisis, there are resources available to support them. 

I will continue to do this critical work and to be grateful for every opportunity to share my story and to help employers, to borrow a phrase from NASHRM, create the best place to work for their employees.  

NOTE: I would be remiss if I did not mention the particular toll on Black mental health that is occurring during this challenging time. In addition to dealing with a staggering number of deaths from COVID-19 in the Black community, almost daily we are exposed to another racist incident that leads to a Black person being harassed, assaulted and in the worst cases – murdered. THIS IS NOT OK. We often speak on the grace we need to extend to our employees in the face of the coronavirus health crisis – greater flexibility, remote work options, understanding why their child is on the Zoom call, etc. Please let us also remember to extend grace to our colleagues who are dealing with constant assaults on our very humanity.

 

 

Managing #MentalHealth During the #COVID19 Pandemic

alone2Like many people, I am currently teleworking five days a week due to the COVID-19 / coronavirus crisis. As this is an unprecedented situation, folks have been checking in on each other a little more than usual. This past week, when people have asked me how I’m doing, I tell them, I’M GOOD. To be honest, except for not seeing my granddaughter, I couldn’t be happier!

My office officially started all staff teleworking last Friday. I was on leave that day, so I didn’t feel anything out of the norm. I knew something was different, though, when I didn’t feel my usual Sunday night anxiety. Every Sunday night – unless I’m on vacation – I feel a lot of anxiety and I have insomnia. It never fails. This past Sunday, that didn’t happen. Somehow my mind and body knew that the next day was going to be different. No struggling to get myself together to leave in the morning. No commute. No stress. All was well.

As a person with Major Depressive Disorder and anxiety who is also a strong introvert, self-isolation is nothing new for me. Of course I don’t usually do it because of a pandemic, but I’m definitely familiar with the concept. For better or worse, I’m built for this! As long as I have my bed, books, music, food and drinks, I think I’m going to do OK with this forced social distancing. People have asked me if it feels different because it’s not by choice. It really doesn’t feel different to me. At least not yet. Ask me again in a few weeks.

grateful-addiction-recoveryI don’t take this comfort with my alone time for granted. I know there are many other people who are feeling extremely anxious about self isolating, being socially distant or being quarantined. I also don’t take for granted that I have a job that allows me to telework. There are several people who, unfortunately, have either lost their jobs or have to go to work and risk catching the virus because they can’t afford not to. There are people who are going to feel lonely because they look forward to socializing or being around others at work. On top of all of that, fear over the virus itself and the economic impact of it are enough to make anyone angsty.

PROTECT_YOUR_MENTAL_HEALTH_RAINBOW_PNG_1200x1200While most people are taking measures to protect their physical health (and the physical health of others;) we mustn’t forget about protecting our mental health as well. This crisis has created a perfect storm for stress, depression, anxiety, loneliness, and/or paranoia. Unfortunately, being isolated or quarantined in the home may also be a catalyst for an uptick in domestic, substance and/or child abuse.  This is truly a crisis in more ways than one. If the coronavirus madness is negatively affecting your mental health, there are some tools and resources that may help. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

CONNECT WITH OTHERS:

TWITTER – Good for having real-time conversations and following hashtags for topics of interest

FACEBOOKGood for finding and joining groups focused on certain topics. Any topic or hobby you can imagine, there’s a Facebook group for it. Groups like Therapy for Black Girls and NoStigmas Mental Health Allies can also be good support systems if you are NOT in a crisis situation.

WHATSAPP OR GOOGLE HANGOUTS – Good for catching up with family and friends via chat, phone or video chat. (You can also use FaceTime if you have yet to realize Android phones are better. 🙂 )

SLACK – Good for group communication, especially with co-workers.

*DISCLAIMER: If using social media does more harm to your mental health than good, please avoid. It is also not recommended to use social media in place of seeking professional help, especially during a crisis.

CALM YOUR MIND:

EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (EAP) – If your employer offers an employee assistance program, it can be a great source of information and resources. If you are not sure if your employer offers an EAP or do not know how to contact them, ask your Human Resources representative.

CALM is offering FREE resources for mental and emotional wellness including soothing sounds, meditations and exercises.

GROKKER is offering FREE yoga, fitness and cooking videos through April 30, 2020.

GET THERAPY:

TALKSPACE  is increasing access to licensed therapists and providing free resources for both existing users and those who haven’t yet tried the service. They are also offering numerous resources for managing anxiety COVID-19 anxiety including a Facebook group. 

OPENPATH has several therapists who are now offering online sessions.

MANAGE YOUR MENTAL HEALTH:

COVID-19 Lockdown Guide: How to Manage Anxiety and Isolation During Quarantine – ADAA

Coronavirus Resource Hub and Free Virus Assessment Survey Questions (CultureIQ)

How to Manage Your Coronavirus Anxiety (WSJ)

How to Self-Quarantine (NY Times)

6 Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Family from Anxiety About Coronavirus (Thrive Global)

Are you worried about Coronavirus? (Psychology Today)

Mental Health & Coping During COVID-19 – Manage Anxiety & Stress – CDC

Coping With Coronavirus: Managing Stress, Fear, and Anxiety – NIMH

Managing Depression and Anxiety During COVID-19

HAVE SOME FUN:

7 Things To Do While Self Isolating Without Self Sabotaging

19 Things to Do When You’re Stuck at Home During the Coronavirus Isolation Period 

7 Things To Do While In Self Isolation

Top 10 Things To Do While You Self-Isolate

**IF YOU’RE EXPERIENCING A CRISIS**

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, feeling unsafe, or feel like you are in danger of breaking your sobriety, please contact a professional.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)  National Helpline – 1−800−799−7233

National Domestic Violence Hotline– 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline –  1-800-273-TALK (8255)

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline – 1 (800) 950 – 6264

ChildHelp National Child Abuse Hotline – 1 (800) 422 – 4453

Crisis Text Line – Text SHARE to 741741

Stay Safe. Stay Healthy. Wash Your Hands. Keep Your Distance. Rest. Be.

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