When the pandemic forced us to halt our lives, be apart from our loved ones, and abandon our routines in order to keep each other safe, mental health became a more widely-discussed topic than perhaps, ever before. Mental health isn’t just important for adults but the whole family too. This World Mental Health Day, I am bringing you some tips on ways to prioritize family mental health.
The stress of 2020 caused emotional strain on many areas of our lives, leading to widespread increases in mental health-related issues like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. According to the CDC, the prevalence of anxiety disorder and depression symptoms in 2020 was approximately four times those reported in 2019. These increases have only continued in 2021, making mental health a more important topic than ever.
World Mental Health Day is an international holiday observed on October 10 each year, focused on education, advocacy, and breaking the stigma surrounding mental health. This is a perfect time to reflect on how to prioritize mental health for your family.
Prioritize a Healthy Lifestyle
It’s never too late to make small changes for a healthier body and mind. Some small ways of maintaining your family’s mental and physical well-being are taking regular walks or bike rides together, eating meals together, having regular bedtime routines and getting the recommended amount of sleep. Manage stress, and finding relaxation techniques, like meditation or yoga, that work for you.
Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries!
Boundaries seems to be a buzzword in the mental health community in recent years, but it’s for good reason. Setting boundaries with others and with yourself is one of the best ways to drastically and steadily improve the mental health of every member of your family.
This article from Healthline has great information on defining boundaries, setting them, and sticking to them.
Model Good Mental Health Habits
Like anything else with parenting, modeling is key to fostering a focus on mental health in your family. Children learn from watching their parents, so if they see you prioritizing your mental and physical health, they’re much more likely to do it too!
While you certainly don’t have to strive for perfection, maintaining healthy relationships, exemplifying self care, and practicing healthy coping skills will go a long way in teaching your children the importance of prioritizing mental health.
Foster Your Support System
Often, people who are suffering from mental health disorders like depression or anxiety will struggle in silence long before they seek help. This is certainly partly due to the stigma that, unfortunately, still exists around mental health. But, it can also be related to a lack of support system to confide in. Finding people you and your children are comfortable talking about vulnerable topics with can help maintain mental health and work toward solutions if anyone in the family is ever in need of greater support.
Bring In the Professionals
If you’ve been putting off finding a therapist for yourself or for anyone else in your family, make that call. There is no shame in bringing in professional support at any point in your life. If your insurance doesn’t include mental health coverage, many therapists offer reduced rates and payment plans to help keep mental healthcare widely accessible.
An initial appointment with a therapist is generally an introductory session intended for you to get a sense of the therapist’s style and personality. Finding a therapist you click with is vital, and part of the process. Don’t feel bad if you don’t align with the first therapist you meet with – keep looking until you find the right fit.
Read this article for more tips on finding the right therapist for you.
I am not a mental health professional, if you or someone you know is struggling with mental health it is best to consult a doctor first. If you believe you, or someone you know, is in immediate danger, please call 911.