May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and this May we also have a report of yet another school shooting in a Denver suburb.
How do parents or other caring adults talk to kids about these tragedies? There is help. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network publishes resources to help parents and others respond healthfully with children and teens. Two fact sheets may be especially helpful at this time: “Talking to Children about the Shooting” and “Parent Guidelines for Helping Youth after the Recent Shooting.” Even if we don’t have children in our lives, these fact sheets include helpful suggestions for how we can engage most compassionately with others, including our co-workers, friends and families.
This May, Mind Springs Health/West Springs Hospital reminds people to take care of your own mental health just as you do your physical or dental health. Make it precious, because it is. Make it important, because it is. Practice good mental hygiene and engage in activities and with people with support your healthy mental wellbeing. The Values In Action Character Strength Survey is a great tool to identify your character strengths, those strengths that make you who you are as a person. The website for this free online survey is www.viacharacter.org, and I encourage you to check it out, learn your strengths and be aware of when you use them for good in the world. The site also gives tips on improving emotional wellbeing and has some great videos.
Just as individual wellbeing is a personal responsibility, so too is community wellbeing a community responsibility. If you see someone who is not doing well, ask them how they are. Contrary to popular belief, asking a person does not make them worse, nor does asking if a person is having thoughts of suicide. It shows care, which we humans need when we are not in a good emotional place.
If you or a community member wants professional help, know that treatment works. The research on what works well in treating mental health concerns is now robust and there are many skilled therapists and supports available. The good news is stigma, which held people back for years from asking for help, is quickly diminishing, and seeking therapy is considered positive.
Sharon Raggio, LPC LMFT
President & CEO, Mind Springs Health & West Springs Hospital