From Sandy Moses, MS, CPS, Mental Health Promotion Coordinator, Lane County Public Health
If you are reading this blog, I know you are well aware of the importance of mental wellness. However, while we have made some inroads in increasing awareness and reducing stigma related to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), trauma-informed care, and mental illness, we still need to do a better job to promote mental health.
I remember well back in April of 2011 when I attended a webinar titled “Flourishing: Positive Mental Health is Good Public Health.” The presenter was Emory University Professor Corey Keyes, PhD, who had been doing extensive research on defining mental health, its components and how to measure it. Two assertions he made have framed my work in mental health promotion: 1) that the absence of mental illness does NOT equal the presence of mental health, and 2) the level of our mental health matters. Dr. Keyes uses a scale from flourishing to languishing to measure our mental health with research to back up the fact that no matter what our current mental health status is—whether we have a mental illness or not, are rich or poor, are housed or unhoused—if certain conditions are present, our overall mental wellness (as well as our physical health) will increase. Some of these factors include positive relations with others, purpose and interest in life, social acceptance, and social contribution.
In promoting mental health, we need to communicate the same principles we use with physical health promotion—i.e., making mental health strategies such as taking breaks at work, journaling, connecting with others and yoga a part of our daily routine, along with brushing our teeth, taking a walk, and getting a good night’s sleep. We need to emphasize that mental health is just as important as our physical health, and understand that (and this is worth repeating) the absence of a mental illness does NOT mean the presence of mental health, just as the absence of a physical disease does NOT imply one is physically healthy. Our focus needs to expand upon what we know about trauma and its impacts on our health; to share ways we can enhance our strengths, coping skills and resiliency; to reduce not only the stigma that surrounds mental illness but also that which still exists about help-seeking; to value listening as much as talking; and to make connections with others a community goal.
In response to this critical need to promote mental health, the Prevention Program at Lane County Public Health created the Mind Your Mind Project. This initiative, funded through Oregon Health Authority’s Mental Health Promotion & Prevention Grant, provides tips and resources for promoting mental wellness and suggestions for building your “Mental Health First Aid Kit”. This particular campaign is a way to further connect physical and mental health, stressing that just as we need a First Aid Kit, full of supplies we might need if we fall ill or get cut or burned, we also need to create our MENTAL HEALTH First Aid Kit—with the things we can do, people we can call, and places we can go to reduce our stress, get support, and seek professional help, when needed. Mind Your Mind Project resources include PSAs, posters, fact sheets for parents/caregivers and students, a workplace mental health toolkit (Mind Your Mind @ Work), ideas for May’s Mind Your Mind Month, and more. Details on all of these resources can be found on the Mind Your Mind Project website at www.MindYourMindProject.org. We also have a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/MindYourMindProject) and Twitter account (www.twitter.com/mindyourmindusa) for those who are social media-minded.
One final event to note: Lane County Public Health is hosting the Mind Your Mind: Advancing Mental Wellness Conference, November 2-3 in Eugene. This is an opportunity to learn about the latest research and resources to promote mental wellness in our clinics, schools, homes, and communities. For information about this conference and to register, please go to www.mindyourmindconference.org
The Mind Your Mind Project is not just a Lane County initiative. Our hope is that it will be used and spread throughout Oregon and the United States. Therefore, I encourage you to use our materials, link to our website and most of all, remember to Mind Your Mind!