By Lisa Alberts, DNP, APRN-BC, PMHNP-BC
Psychiatric & Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

May is Mental Health Awareness month and yet mental health is a topic we should be discussing and addressing all year long In particular, mental health threats to our youth increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has created stress, isolation and uncertain times for many. Disruptions in school and family life along with significant loss have contributed to this increase. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 1/3 of all High School students in the US reported poor mental health during the pandemic and 44% persistently felt sad or hopeless during the past year. These and other statistics are staggering. So, what can we as family members and friends do about it?

Mental Health America (MHA) is one organization that brings mental health to the forefront of our minds during the month of May. The goal of MHA is to provide knowledge of mental health conditions and information about what to do if you have a mental health concern. The theme identified by MHA for this year’s awareness month is “Back to Basics”.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) also has a theme for Mental Health Awareness Month: “Together for Mental Health”. NAMI fights against the stigma of mental illness, supports and advocates for those in need. They urge us to join together to advocate, create awareness, and improve access to care. Together, we can make sure anyone affected by mental illness gets the help they need by being observant, aware and ready to act. What can you do to help?

  • Take care of yourself by asking for help when you feel depressed, anxious or stressed
  • Take care of your loved ones by checking up on friends and family and provide them support and encouragement
  • Talk about mental health to reduce the stigma and encourage others to seek help

How can you talk to teens when you are worried about their mental health?

  • Pick a quiet time and work to stay calm and open
  • Tell them what you’re observing
  • Ask them open-ended questions about what’s going on
  • Let them know you want to help and listen
  • Acknowledge what they are telling you
  • Ask if they would like help fixing it or if they just want you to listen
  • Take a break if you get angry or emotional. Start again when you’re calm
  • Resource: The Jed Foundation

Let’s get back to basics, take care of ourselves and those around us, and work together to improve mental health care for all!

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