As 2022 rolls in, a lot of emphasis will be placed on losing weight and getting healthier. We know what to do to get there. Reduce our food intake, increase our exercise regime by walking more, lifting weights, joining a gym, or even riding a bike. All of these are healthy choices and preventative measures for heart disease and diabetes.
There are television and radio commercials that target our annual resolution to eat healthy foods, exercise more, lose a few pounds, and get physically fit. What you don’t see are marketing ads telling us how to get help with our mental health. Maintaining our mental health is equally as important as our physical health. Mental health includes our social well-being and our emotional and psychological well-being. How we handle stress, interact with others, how we think, feel and act are all part of our mental health.
When someone tells you they have a headache, upset stomach, or even chest pains, our response is to get medical attention. So often the signs of someone suffering from mental health challenges are overlooked. Some of those overlooked signs may include heavy drug use, unable to perform simple everyday tasks, excessive smoking, drinking and sleeping, severe mood swings, yelling, and fighting with family and friends. There are many more signs and medical disorders associated with mental health.
Speaking about one’s mental health is often tabu. Kudos to the younger generation including U.S. gymnast Simone Biles, and famed tennis player Naomi Osaka who were willing to say to the world they are not doing okay mentally. Simone and Naomi received a vast amount of criticism for their decisions, they also received support for shining a light on mental wellness. Both have proven doing so doesn’t make them any weaker, less of an athlete or human. Biles withdrew from the women’s U.S. team citing mental health. On Simone’s worst day in the “2020” Olympics she still managed to get an Olympic medal. Osaka withdrew from the French Open after saying her mental health was at stake. Stating she wasn’t in a good headspace to speak to the media after her match. She withdrew citing it was best for her mental wellbeing.
The pandemic has also raised awareness and put more focus on mental health. A “pulse” survey by the U.S. Census Bureau conducted via text and emails showed anxiety and stress have been the leading cause of mental health or mental illness during the pandemic. One of the most revealing insights of this survey was the number of young adults between the age of 18-25 who experienced anxiety and depression. People of color, women and low-income households, bore the brunt in their roles as essential workers. While they may not have been essential workers, ministers and clergy have been under an enormous amount of stress also. They were the ones called to eulogize loved ones lost during the pandemic.
The psychological impact of the pandemic will probably linger for years. As the omicron variant of coronavirus ramps up, we are headed for a fifth and sixth round of this pandemic. We have to be aware not just for ourselves, but for our families and communities that mental wellness is not a luxury. We have to make it a priority with sustaining and improving our mental health.
Starting in July of 2022, the FCC designated a new phone number for Americans in crisis to have access to mental health crisis and suicide prevention counseling. People will be able to dial 9-8-8 to connect with counselors when there is a mental health or mental illness crisis instead of dialing 911.