October 10th is World Mental Health Day. According to the World Health Organization, the overall objective of World Mental Health Day is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health.
This is a very important issue, especially after the world has gone through a life-altering pandemic. Now more than ever, we need to address the mental crisis sweeping our nation and globe. Mental health should be recognized not just annually but daily.
One thing you can do to prioritize mental health is check in with yourself and your loved ones. If you’re not sure how, here are a few tips to get started.
The importance of mental health check-ins
Before you can help others it’s important to take care of yourself. Some call it the “oxygen mask theory” in which, after settling in on an airplane and before take-off, the flight instructions state that in the event of an emergency you must put on your own oxygen masks before helping others with theirs.
Why is this? Well, you’re not much help to others if you can’t help yourself. The good news? The number of Americans seeking mental health treatment is on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
A 2021 CDC survey found that nearly one in four adults ages 18 to 44 had sought mental health treatment in the past 12 months. Those numbers are promising in regards to people accessing treatment — but misconceptions about mental health still arise.
How to do a mental health check-in with yourself
I preface the rest of this piece with the fact that I’m not a licensed therapist, and if you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts, you should contact the Crisis Text Line. It is toll-free, and they can also connect via SMS or WhatsApp.
Everyone could use a daily check-in — but before you can help others, it’s important to check in with yourself. For example, ask yourself questions like: Am I moving my body, drinking water, getting enough rest, getting Vitamin D, connecting with someone, being creative?
On some days, you’ll answer yes to all of the above, and on others, no to all. As human beings, we’re a scientifically-based recipe of the above-mentioned components that help to support our own mental health, specifically when it comes to sleep.
While taking care of the fundamentals can gear you in the right direction, sometimes seeking professional help is necessary.
Everyone is different, and some may need a daily, weekly, monthly, or even just a yearly visit to a therapist. Speaking to an unbiased third party gives you an outside perspective that can help navigate your situation differently from, say, a friend or family member who may know you well.
How to do a mental health check-in with a friend
Now that I’ve covered how to take care of yourself, what about those around you? It might be hard to help your loved ones if you’re not sure how. The first step is listening and asking questions about their life in a non-evasive manner.
If you feel as though your friend/family member or partner hasn’t been themselves or has recently gone through a traumatic situation that you don’t think you can help them with, suggest speaking with a licensed therapist.
You can even offer to go with them if they don’t feel comfortable going alone. You know your loved ones best — and while there are telltale signs of someone who is sick, mental health is harder to diagnose without a licensed therapist.
The bottom line on mental health checks
Once you’ve done the work with your own mental health, you’ll be able to share with others how beneficial it is. Think of it as catching up with an old friend or “venting” to an understanding one.
The point is, life and relationships are all about connecting, which is done through communication. Just as we schedule our annual doctor visits, it’s time we normalize scheduling our regular therapy sessions and making mental health a priority.