In a recent virtual Parent Education meeting with agencies and community volunteers exploring ways to support parents during the pandemic, the subject of mental health came up. It has been a subject on the table throughout this year, yet it often gets pushed to the bottom of the agenda. This meeting we decided to focus on it.
In our American culture, showing up with a physical illness will get prompt attention with referrals, treatment and follow-up. During this process, mental health status may or may not be addressed.Along with this, sadly, someone who is seeking psychiatric help or is diagnosed with a mental health condition, even today, may be disregarded and societally stigmatized.
This also occurs in the Latinx community, in fact, they don’t even have the language to express experiences of depression and anxiety. One person told the story of her mother being deeply depressed---not wanting to get up in the morning or engage in any of her regular activities, and so the best words she could say about the way she was feeling was, “I am sick.”She wasn’t physically ill; she had all the symptoms of depression, but hadn’t learned how to acknowledge the difference.
The African American community holds trauma and experiences of discrimination from its history, yet according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 30 percent of Black American adults with mental health conditions receive treatment each year, compared to the U.S. average of 43 percent.
We could address other cultures and their beliefs about seeking mental health services, but the over-riding theme is first becoming aware of how each culture views mental health. The next step is educating about the universal importance of mental health attention, and finally, helping community members find available mental health resources.
During this extremely challenging time of being home with virtual school and meetings, the attendees at this meeting emphasized the importance of parents having compassion for themselves. In reality, we know that without self-care, we cannot care for someone else. However, as expected, everyone agreed that this was easier said than done.
In some ways, it seems we may be giving our parents a contradictory message. Stay on top of your parenting role, after you have worked all day and still take renewal time for yourself. This may seem near to impossible.
It was suggested that each parent try to prioritize and engage what is most important. You could also ask if there are ways you can do both? Could it be taking time to go out for a walk with your child and hearing about his/her day while you both are being refreshed by another environment? Or, is it accepting the fact that merely fifteen minutes of quality time with one’s child can be all that is needed for now? Learning to set boundaries is key, as one can do just so much.
The Parent Education Group has emphasized the importance of Support Groups. These virtual groups are showing up in numbers for the Latinx community. It is here that families, in their native language can share their challenges and seek help. This joint experience helps parents see that they are all fighting the same storm. They can learn from each other and move from isolation towards a healthier state of mind.
It also was brought out that each of us are rowing our own boat in this same pandemic storm, so we need to be thoughtful and respectful of the unique personal experiences that each person is having. This allows us to listen and ask the question, “How are YOU doing?” We don’t need to fix things; active listening is a wonderful way to help.
The Maternal Child Health Consortium (MCHC) sponsored a “Peace of Mind” virtual event on mental health resources, self-care, and mental health first aid training in early February. It was held for providers, who work with families. The presenters all emphasized that these times are challenging for all of us, and none of us are above needing support with our mental health, just as we need to pay attention to our physical health which is all interconnected.
One Kendal resident, who attends the meetings told us, at the beginning of the pandemic, each resident was given the name of a designated resident friend. The idea was that the resident would call this person a couple of times a week to check in and listen. She found it very rewarding and spoke about how this outreach is something anyone could do with anyone--neighbor, community member or friend. The key element is the regularity of phone calls and making it known that at least one person is thinking of them .
If community members would like to explore how to be more attentive to mental health, two trainings are offered; Mental Health 101 and Suicide Prevention. You may contact Amanda Blue at email@example.com and she will have the information of where you can sign-up.
Finally, In times of crisis, you may text 741741 . Anywhere, anytime and a live, trained crisis counselor receives the text and responds quickly. The crisis counselor helps you move from a hot moment to a cool calm to stay safe and healthy using effective active listening and suggested referrals – all through text message using Crisis Text Line’s secure platform.