Thursday, July 25 | Cause Connected, Human Services, Netsmart in the Community

Minding Your Mental Health All Year Long

Although officially recognized in May, being mindful of mental health isn’t limited to one month. It affects people year-round, so it’s important to keep the conversation going regarding healthy habits and consistent self-care. As we move toward more open dialect and increased wellness, Netsmart continues to look for ways to make a positive impact on mental health and wellness in our community.

One of the most hands-on ways we work to make mental health a priority is through offering Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training led by certified Netsmart associates Julie Hiett and Tricia Zerger. Through this 8-hour course, individuals learn how to respond in a mental health emergency and offer support to someone who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis. First aiders leave understanding what warning signs and risk factors to look for, how to interact with a person in crisis and non-crisis situations and where to turn for help.

In 2018 alone, Netsmart presented six sessions to 144 individuals and has certified more than 900 people since first implementing MHFA training. According to Zerger, taking the course is a significant first step toward reducing stigma surrounding mental health.

“Julie and I teach about recovery and resiliency,” Zerger said. “Individuals experiencing mental health challenges can and do get better, and they use their strengths to stay well.”

This year at CONNECTIONS19, we held the second-annual MHFA training during the event. Training spots filled up quickly, as attendees looked forward to broadening their horizons outside of the conference’s core education sessions.

“It was such an amazing opportunity to be able to offer MHFA training at CONNECTIONS again,” Hiett said. “Not only is it incredibly educational and empowering, it’s also free of charge to attendees. Be sure to sign up when the time comes!”

This March, 26 members of Blue Valley School District Father’s Club became MHFA certified through a training session hosted by Netsmart. Comprised of Blue Valley district dads, the Johnson County, Kansas-based group works to be an active presence in their children’s communities. By receiving MHFA training, members of The Father’s Club continue to promote awareness of mental health issues in local school districts, which is a main platform in the group’s mission to make a true difference in the community.

“Every father, regardless if they are a member of Father’s Club or not, should take this training and get certified,” Father’s Club executive committee member Todd Milner said. “Our kids, our schools and our communities are hurting and need us to lean into this very challenging topic of mental health. MHFA is a perfect way to get involved.”

We encourage everyone to get MHFA certified, as the training provides the skills necessary to respond effectively and appropriately to any mental health or substance use situation. Visit the MFHA website to learn more about how you can become certified through upcoming sessions.

“When a loved one has a physical illness, we rally around that individual — we cook, clean, help with driving responsibilities, and much more,” Zerger said. “But when someone is struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma or other mental conditions, family members are not sure what to do. We should be providing the same care support no matter the situation.”

Prioritizing mental health and wellness daily

In light of keeping mental health and wellness at the forefront in addition to training, we asked our MHFA experts Julie and Tricia the top five ways we can maintain and prioritize our own mental health and wellness every day.

  • 1. Practice mindfulness

The great thing about mindfulness is that we can exercise it anywhere, anytime. Mindfulness is focusing all of your attention on the present moment. You’re not thinking about the past or future, only the present, on only the now. Ways to do this include focusing on your breath, observing your five senses or letting thoughts come and go without judgement. Check out some free mindfulness resources here.

  • 2. Exercise frequently

Although great for the body, exercise has just as many benefits for the mind. When your body is active, your brain releases endorphins that give you a sense of well-being and achievement. Exercise relieves tension and stress while helping boost your mood and energy levels.

  • 3. Keep a journal

Stress and anxiety can be overwhelming, so keeping a journal can help you think more clearly as a way to get pressing thoughts off your chest. Think of your journal as your best friend; we always feel better after venting to a friend, but sometimes that’s not always an option. Keeping a journal can help you organize your mind and relieve stress at any point throughout your day.

  • 4. Ask for a hug

As trivial as it sounds, simply receiving a hug from a loved one or friend can help reduce stress and anxiety. Physical touch promotes feelings of trust, comfort and security when done consensually by a family member, friend or loved one. Often times when we are feeling anxious we feel vulnerable and uncertain, so receiving a hug can be an easy yet impactful way to comfort the mind and body in times of trouble.

  • 5. Use self-help apps

There are hundreds of self-help resources out there, and many of them are free to use! There’s a wide variety of applications you can download on your smartphone that are designed to help users combat mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Tools often include guided meditation, coping skills and interactive activities. Try one today.

Even though Mental Health Month is over, it’s up to us to continue to conversations and encourage healthy practices in our community. Through opportunities like receiving MHFA training and openly practicing while advocating for self-help strategies like the tips above, we can together improve the overall well-being of ourselves and others, while stamping out the stigma of mental health for good.

MHFA on the map

Just like mental health efforts happen outside of May, they also happen outside of our community. There are initiatives being taken across the country; initiatives we can all honor, recognize and potentially even participate in.

Notable MFHA news:

  • CNN article discusses the importance and benefits of MHFA training, as one in five adults in the U.S. live with a mental health problem according to the National Institute of Mental Health. However, majority of individuals don't get professional help. Read here.
  • Walgreens collaborates with the National Council for Behavioral Health and the American Pharmacists Association to offer MHFA training for pharmacists and team members. Read the story here.
  • Lady Gaga announced the teen MHFA pilot program provided by the Born This Way Foundation and The National Council for Behavioral Health will expand training to 20 additional high schools this fall. Read the story here.
  • Teachers and school staff to start mental health training in Iowa. Trainees will learn similar tactics taught in MHFA courses such as warning signs and who to call for help. Facilitators expect it to take up to two years to get all educators in the area trained. Read the story here.

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