Mental Health Month was started 64 years ago by Colorado West Mental Health Center’s national organization, Mental Health America, to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of mental wellness for everyone.
“Pathways to Wellness,” this year’s theme for May is Mental Health Month, calls attention to strategies and approaches that help Americans achieve wellness and good mental and overall health.
Krista McClinton, of Colorado West, said wellness is essential to living a full and productive life.
“People have different ideas about what wellness means, but it involves a set of skills and strategies to prevent the onset or shorten the duration of illness and promote recovery and well-being. It’s about keeping healthy as well as getting healthy,” she said.
McClinton says wellness is more than absence of disease.
“It involves complete general, mental and social well-being,” she said. “The fact is, overall well-being is tied to the balance that exists between emotional, physical, spiritual and mental health.”
Whatever your situation, everyone is at risk of stress, given the demands of daily life and the challenges it brings at home, work or elsewhere.
Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to maintain well-being and achieve wellness. They involve a balanced diet, regular exercise, enough sleep, a sense of self-worth, development of coping skills that promote resiliency, emotional awareness, and connections to family, friends and the community.
These steps should be complemented by taking stock of your well-being through regular mental health checkups. Just as you should check your blood pressure and get cancer screenings, it’s a good idea to take periodic stock of emotional well-being.
A recent study suggests everyone should get their mental health checked as often as they get a physical, and many doctors routinely screen for mental health, which typically includes a series of questions about lifestyle, eating and drinking habits and mental wellness.
But a checkup doesn’t necessarily require a special trip to the doctor. There are online screening tools that can be very effective. While conditions such as depression are common — roughly one in five Americans has a mental health condition — they are extremely treatable.
An online tool is available now to any Eagle County resident through Colorado West. Visit www.cwrmhc.org and click on “Tools & Resources.” The code is provided to you free by Colorado West. This interactive website offers a range of resources to improve mental health and overall well-being, including personalized learning programs to help overcome depression and anxiety supported by simple tools, weekly exercises and daily inspiration in a safe and confidential environment. MyStrength is proven to provide resources based on the latest scientific research and clinical advice.
Colorado West is also offering a nationally known, evidenced-based program called Mental Health First Aid. Just as important to saving lives as CPR or other first aid for the body is Mental Health First Aid. It is a program everyone should be familiar with, helping people understand and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorders with the goal of supporting those in crisis until appropriate professional help arrives. Individuals can register online at www.mhfaco.org. This is also a great training for employers to offer their employees.
Fully embracing the concept of wellness not only improves health in the mind, body and spirit, but also maximizes one’s potential to lead a full and productive life. Using strategies that promote resiliency and prevent mental health and substance use conditions lead to improved general health and a healthier society: greater academic achievement by our children, a more productive economy and families that stay together.
It’s why pathways to wellness are so important.
Jennifer Ludwig is the Eagle County public health director.