Mental Health Matters for Everyone: Let’s Talk about It


May 1, 2024, 1:47 pm | Kimberly Cavalier, Anthony Santiago

AMES, Iowa – Mental Health Awareness Month is observed every May but discussing mental health can be a daily practice for everyone.

“Mental health profoundly influences our daily lives, shaping our thoughts, actions and interactions,” says Kimberly Cavalier, a human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Friends gathering together by Rawpixel.com/stock.adobe.com.“Every day, and especially during May, we should find ways to address our mental health,” adds human sciences specialist Anthony Santiago.

Cavalier and Santiago share these practical steps for improving mental well-being:

  • Get quality sleep. Prioritize getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Sleep disturbances can impact your mood, cognitive function and overall health.
  • Engage in physical activity. Regular exercise positively affects mental health. Even a short walk or light exercise can boost mood and reduce stress.
  • Connect with others. Meaningful relationships provide emotional support. Interact with friends and family — it’s essential for mental well-being.
  • Pay attention to what you eat and drink. A nutritious, balanced diet supports brain function and energy levels.

Take care of yourself

Consider trying a self-help technique, such as meditation and mindfulness, listening to podcasts by mental health professionals, or keeping a gratitude journal and writing down three things you are grateful for each day.

“You might want to reduce your time on social media platforms. Too much social media screen time can impact mental well-being. Instead look for websites that promote positive news and stories,” Cavalier said.

“Give yourself compassion rather than criticism. Offer kindness and understanding to yourself and to others,” Santiago added.

Seek support from a mental health professional. Therapy and counseling can be beneficial. Many employers offer Employee Assistance Programs that provide counseling services. Online counseling also may be available.

Raise awareness about mental health

Mental Health Awareness Month is a crucial time to foster understanding and compassion around mental health, Cavalier said. Here are some ways you can raise awareness:

  • Take a class. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach offers Mental Health First Aid training. Gain knowledge about mental health challenges and learn how to support people who are experiencing mental health issues.
  • Talk about mental health. Engage in open conversations about mental health. Sharing your experiences can benefit both your own well-being and offer encouragement to others.
  • Participate or volunteer. Join local or online events during National Mental Health Month in May. These events help spread awareness and promote understanding.

“Remember, even a small action can contribute to a more compassionate and informed society. Let’s continue to talk, break down stigma and prioritize mental health,” Santiago said.

Resources

Iowa Concern: If you’re unsure where to seek help, Iowa Concern, 800-447-1985 and https://www.extension.iastate.edu/iowaconcern/, is available 24/7. It provides free and confidential support for concerns related to alcohol, drugs, gambling, and mental health.

988 Lifeline: Dialing 988 connects you to the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, offering emotional support and resources for those in need. Information about having a conversation via chat or text is available at https://988lifeline.org/chat/.

Your Life Iowa: This resource provides assistance for substance use, problem gambling, suicide prevention and mental health. Reach out via phone, text or live chat at https://yourlifeiowa.org/.

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