Community Connection: May is mental health month |

Community Connection: May is mental health month

Gina Toothaker
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

May is Mental Health Month, a time to recognize that millions of Americans are living with a mental illness. It is also a time to rejoice in resiliency and offer hope and care to those who are struggling with depression, anxiety or other issues that may be impacting their everyday lives.

Here in Western Colorado, we are plowing our way through the pandemic, as is the rest of the world. In addition to spending more than a year with a deadly virus, we spent a good portion of last summer and fall battling forest fires throughout the state. With a continued drought and less than desirable snowpack this winter, the threat of another devastating fire season is upon us.

The emotional response to a terrible event, or series of events, can be wide and varied. What may be considered a trauma for one person, may not be for another. For many, the ongoing pandemic and/or a natural disaster (fires) have brought on trauma and stress that can be hard on their mental health. However, there are ways to adapt and cope after periods of stress.

Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings. When times of stress or trauma occur, we’re often in a “fight or flight mode” and are simply trying to get through the moment. Taking time after a traumatic experience to evaluate the trauma,= and your feelings can help you move forward.

Understand that trauma impacts everyone differently. You may be wondering how your friends or family seem to be thriving during the pandemic, while you’re struggling. Everyone reacts to trauma differently. A small child getting bit by a dog could be a memory that fades quickly, or it could develop into a lifelong fear of dogs. It’s OK to recognize that you’ve been impacted by a traumatic situation, and you may be reacting differently than others.

Give yourself time and understanding. After experiencing trauma, there is no set timeline of when you’ll bounce back. And recovery is not often a straight line, as you may have great days and then have not so great days. Allow yourself time to heal and work through the process.

Pay attention to your physical health. Stress and trauma can impact your body, as well as your mind. Mild stretching, light exercise, eating nutritious foods, drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep (but not too much) will help your overall well-being.

Ask for help. The silver lining of this pandemic is that it has lessened the stigma surrounding mental health, and people are finding that seeking help is better than silently suffering. Therapy does help, and people do feel better. Mind Springs Health is here to support you with your mental health needs. We take Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance, and we offer a sliding fee scale based on income to those who are uninsured. Please call for more information about our services or to make an appointment at 970-879-2141.

And don’t hesitate to reach out to the 24/7 crisis line if you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency and needs to talk to a therapist right away at 844-493-8255.

As we navigate the weeks and months ahead, know that there may be others around you who are struggling. Through kindness, compassion and empathy, we can help each other through whatever life throws our way.

Gina Toothaker is the program director of Mind Springs Health’s outpatient offices in Steamboat Springs and Walden.

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