It seems as though we are hearing more and more about mental health in the news these days. There is a good reason for this — mental health concerns have been growing over the past few years. Two out of five adults in Virginia experienced symptoms of anxiety and depression during the pandemic, and the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health.
The good news is that with more people talking about mental health, whether in the news, with co-workers, or with family members, we are part of the solution. As a society, we’ve begun to shift our understanding of mental health from a state of illness or clinical diagnosis to a shared understanding that we are all impacted by emotional challenges, which can shift over time for each of us. Talking about mental health promotes acceptance and encourages people to seek help when they need it.
Every May, communities around the nation celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month.
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Here in Central Virginia, the Community Mental Health and Wellness Coalition celebrates the month by developing and promoting a Mental Health Awareness Month calendar. Our calendar is filled with lots of free events and activities to boost wellbeing. Events are both virtual and in-person, and include ways to promote healing through creativity, gentle ways to move your body for wellness, racially and culturally affirming support groups, and workshops and trainings to grow your skills to respond to mental health needs.
The workshops and events that we are promoting this month help people recognize signs of mental health or substance use concerns, know how to respond to these concerns, and share information about where people can go for help. Some of the workshops available to the community include:
■ On May 9, for National Fentanyl Awareness Day, the Blue Ridge Health District, Region Ten, and the Coalition provided REVIVE overdose prevention training and distributed free Narcan. For ongoing training, check out www.helphappenhere.org/overdoseprevention.
■ The Coalition, Region Ten and On Our Own will be tabling on Downtown Mall this coming Friday. Anyone can stop by to learn more about local resources.
■ Region Ten is offering free Mental Health First Aid training on May 23, and throughout the year. To learn more about this training, check out www.regionten.org/events.
Talking about mental health challenges with a friend or loved one can feel awkward, but just starting the conversation is an important first step to breaking down stigma and finding care and support. If you’ve been feeling anxious or depressed, or worried about someone you know, there are community resources that can help.
For crisis situations, if someone is contemplating self-harm or suicide, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline/988/Regional Call Center provides free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
■ Call (434) 230-9704, OR call or text 988.
■ For veterans, call 988 and press 1 or text 838255.
■ For Spanish-speaking callers, call 988 and press 2.
The Coalition also has an information and referral website to help residents in Charlottesville, Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, and Nelson counties find low-cost counseling and support groups in our community. You can find these resources at www.helphappenshere.org/.
This Mental Health Awareness Month, we can all play a role in improving mental health. Whether we share resources, encourage others to seek help, or simply provide a listening ear, we can still hope and help others when they need it the most. And, there is no better way to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month.
Rebecca Kendall is the Community Mental Health and Wellness Coalition director for the Region Ten Community Services Board.