#Breakthestigma with Mental Health Awareness

May is Mental Health Awareness month—even more significant in our current circumstances. Now, more than ever, people may be suffering from depression, anxiety, and other disorders as they are isolated, facing job loss, wondering how to pay the bills, and just struggling to make it through each day.

Nearly 450 million people worldwide suffer from a mental illness, yet most don’t seek treatment. Our world is only recently opening its eyes to the fact that mental illness is more than just a ‘passing phase.’ While 1 in 5 individuals experience a mental illness in their lifetime, 5 out of 5 individuals will experience a time in their life that will impact their mental health. But there are tools available to everyone.

One simple tool available is a mental health screening. Join Mental Health America (MHA) in their #millioninmay campaign. This May, MHA is aiming for 1 million mental health screens at MHAscreening.org to normalize preventative measures for mental health conditions and encourage people to seek help. It’s a fast, private, and free way to assess your mental health.

Additionally, there are other practices that can aid in improved mental health.

Own it

Far too often, we are told to hide our emotions—to ‘man up’ or told that ‘big girls don’t cry.’ But bottling up your emotions will always do more harm than good. Humans are emotional—we have feelings that are ok to feel. It may not be appropriate to express your feelings in the moment you are feeling them but do so as soon as you can. Bottling emotions will often lead to explosions down the road, and even health disorders. Talk it out with someone or try journaling. Always consider the size and strength of your emotions—it’s important to put perspective on things. And when all else fails, find a professional.

Find the Positive

We will all face loss of some kind: a job, the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship…you name it. Everyone will go through a challenging time. You are not alone. Grieving is natural, and everyone’s process is different. But, as hokey as it is, each loss does make you stronger—you become better equipped with tools to handle future difficult situations. And maybe a loss opens you up to new situations. While there may be feelings of guilt with this, it’s ok to find joy after the death of a loved one, or the end of a relationship. Maybe the loss of your job opened doors to really go after what you want in life. Redirect your focus on the positives in your situation. It may be hard—and some days will be harder than others, but you can do it. You are strong. And—you are not alone. Don’t be afraid of reaching out to others. Honor your loss. Step one step forward each day; and find what brings you joy.


Our mental health can be challenged by the people around us—especially those closest to us. Toxic people can make you feel worse about yourself. They prohibit growth and healing; and they can encourage self-destructive behaviors. It is so important to recognize the traits of toxic people and remove them from your life. This may involve, at times, going to the police or to organizations that can aid in getting you out of a bad situation. Toxic traits can include manipulation, making you feel bad about yourself, judgmental behavior, passive aggressive tendencies, always playing the victim, guilt-tripping, anger management issues, physical and emotional abuse, and controlling and narcissistic tendencies. You must remove these people from your life—even if they are family. Break up with and create boundaries for friends, family and partners who are toxic in order to step on to the road to improved mental health. Surround yourself with love and with people who support you and encourage you. You deserve it.

Routine Life

Creating healthy routines helps us organize our days and our tasks so that they are more manageable, and we don’t feel overwhelmed by everything we must do. Recognize first that everyone’s routine is different. Yours doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. You must do what is best for you. Every healthy routine should include eating well-balanced meals, getting ample sleep, and making time for physical activity, but you decide when and how you do those things. Start small and pick one item each week to change or focus on. Build your routine around the things you love to do—maybe you enjoy having a coffee in the morning while reading—keep that item on your list and build around it. Replace activities that aren’t beneficial to you with healthy ones—a cup of herbal tea for those cocktails in the evening, for example. Always make time, though, for the things you love and celebrate your wins—no matter how small. And don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go as planned. Life happens. Look again at your day and find the positives.

Get Social

No man is an island. We need connections—so don’t isolate. We can actually be surrounded by people and still feel alone. Connections are key. Say yes to invitations when you want to say no. Invite a co-worker you haven’t seen due to quarantine for a Zoom cup of coffee. Maintain boundaries, yes—it IS ok to say no to things when you need some Me time but examine whether you are saying no more than yes. And when you are with others—listen to them. This is where the connection occurs. Ask them questions about their hobbies. Be there and listen when they are going through a tough time. Shared experiences can bring people together deeply—even the small experiences like standing 6 feet from each other in the grocery store and bringing some humor to the situation.

There are practical, doable tools at hand for improving mental health. But they take a willingness to make changes. Living a healthy lifestyle and incorporating mental health tools to thrive may not be easy but can be achieved by gradually making small changes and building on those successes. One small step at a time—you can do this.