Always a Great Time to Talk About Mental Health

May is Mental Health Month, so let’s talk about mental health to EVERYONE. Reach out to your legislators and tell them we need more money for mental health and substance abuse treatment. Reach out to a friend and ask how they are doing? It doesn’t matter what you do, just don’t do nothing! 

I have been speaking to some of my military friends about mental health and suicide rates in the military. I am worried about the shift that is happening. I am hearing that yes, they are doing training, yes, they are educating, but when suicide happens its almost ignored. Let’s not even talk about what happens if you ask for help. In fact, it is still the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” attitude. This is not right. All the education and training doesn’t do anything if the attitude and culture behind it don’t change.  

Like everything, it starts at the top, and if they aren’t trained to deal with people then nothing will change. We have young men and women who have left home for the first time and, during the pandemic, were told they could only go to work then back to barracks, alone. Don’t leave your room, don’t talk to your neighbor. They can call home but were not allowed to go home. The married military men and women were at least allowed to go home to their family. How do society and the military think this won’t cause mental health and substance use issues?  

If someone does have an issue or takes their own life, everyone else is told to move on. They offer counseling and support, but it is difficult to access. The mission must get done first, and that means “suck it up.” Let’s speak up for our service men and women! They deserve better. I know we all have loved ones that we want to see receive better care. If you have not asked your loved one how they are feeling, please do! Be sincere, look them in the eye, and ask, “How are you feeling today?”  

Don’t be afraid to ask the questions. It’s hard to think what we would do if someone told us they were depressed or even thinking about taking their life. Therefore, we need more funding and availability for mental health! As a society we have allowed ourselves to ignore mental health or make mental health and substance use a scary topic. (See my post about mental health Stigma April 14, 2021) Part of what we need is to find a way to educate people on how to talk about it. But if there is no professional available for help or questions it becomes a burden on the friends and family who don’t have the right experience and can’t escalate.  

In some communities, it takes 3 to 6 months to get an appointment to enter mental health or substance use treatment. This is outrageous. Why is this acceptable? Just like with physical health, if mental health or substance use is ignored, it can become dangerous. If someone is depressed and is not able to get help it can progress into suicidal thoughts and actions. This is an EMERGENCY, just like chest pain. I know the wait times are not acceptable to the mental health and substance use treatment facilities. The issue is that there is no money to hire staff and if there is money there is no one to hire. We need recruitment into mental health related fields and that starts with guidance counselors. Who is advocating for mental health professions? So again, let’s say something! Raise awareness! 

I have a suggestion for those of us who are not afraid to ask, “How are you?” or “Are you depressed?” First, if they say ‘not good’ or ‘yes’ or tell you they are struggling, don’t say you’re sorry and leave it at that. I watch New Amsterdam the TV show, and one of my favorite things the main character says is “How can I help?” It’s a hard question when you are worried someone is in a bad spot. But if you just say I’m sorry and leave, they are alone again, and the despair deepens. Sometimes all it takes is sitting with someone while they make a phone call, or telling them you will call them tomorrow to check in. If you didn’t care you wouldn’t have asked, so don’t be afraid to care!  

Finally, don’t be afraid to speak up and say that you think someone is struggling or know someone is struggling. It might save a life!  

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