Mental Health Awareness Month

Discussing mental health has become more popular lately. Folks may have suffered in silence in past decades, but awareness and education are shifting the conversation. Researchers have studied what makes us struggle and how to alter our state of mind. We can use this month to learn about resources and work toward a stronger sense of well-being in us all.


If you or someone you love needs immediate care, please consider going to an emergency room, calling 988, or texting START to 678-678 for LGBTQIA2S+ specific support. If you are not in an emergency, contacting your doctor can be a helpful first step. Oregon has a warmline (a non-emergency resource to find someone to talk with) available. As reported in General Psychology, “46% of Americans will meet the criteria for a mental health disorder sometime in their life.” Anxiety disorders are the most commonly diagnosed.

When to Seek Help

Please see the above paragraph for emergency resources or immediate situations. Mental Health America suggests that you or a loved one may consider seeking professional support when you notice several symptoms such as:

  • Inability to complete work or school tasks.
  • Changes in energy levels and sleep patterns.
  • Disconnection from others or withdrawal from typically enjoyable activities.

As with physical health, it is much easier to treat mental health if we seek help in the early stages of change. Mental Health Awareness Month helps us break down the shame of mental health needs. We should make changes if we feel that things are “not right.” This may mean talking with our primary care physician or therapist or making lifestyle changes. You may consider taking this online screener to help you decide whether to seek support.

What Mental Health Is and Isn’t

Psychologist Dr. Lisa Damour helps clarify the definition of mental health in her book The Emotional Lives of Teenagers. She writesthat mental health isn’t about “feeling good” but about having feelings that fit the moment, even if those feelings are unwanted or painful.” [emphasis Dr. Damour’s] She shares an example of intense nervous feelings leading up to a big test as appropriate feelings, even if they’re uncomfortable. This definition applies to all ages. “Good” mental health doesn’t mean we’re always happy; it means we have many fitting emotions. People are not naturally happy all the time, but that doesn’t mean we have a diagnosable mental health disorder.

Mental Health is not Permanent

Reminding ourselves that our situations are not permanent can be helpful when our feelings are uncomfortable and life feels more effortless. We can be present to what we are living and enjoy it. There are practical steps we can take to shift our mindset. Research has shown that small habits in our lives can tremendously impact disordered thinking. Mental Health Awareness Month is a great time to build in some of these habits. The Center for Mental Health Services director, Dr. Anita Everett, shares a list of strategies to boost our resiliency. We can experiment to see if our mood shifts with suggestions such as eating foods that help our bodies, sleeping enough and well, and spending time with our pets.

When someone you love is struggling

Witnessing someone you care about suffering can be challenging. The cliches are right – we have to care for ourselves first. Dr. Kristin Neff’s guided exercises for self-compassion can be essential touchstones throughout your day. You can express your concern and encourage your friend or family to seek help. You can invite them to walk with you in nature and offer care for them, but you can’t take away their pain, necessarily. A presence can be significant for many people – you don’t have to talk, but you can keep them company. You may consider talk therapy for yourself so that you have an outlet for the pain you feel and guidance for support.

Let’s use this awareness month to check in with ourselves, build resiliency habits, and take the next step we need for care, whether it’s making that appointment for therapy, reaching out to a friend, or learning more about tools to support our growth.

Web Resources

Doing What Matters In Times of Stress (WHO) available in multiple languages

Mental Health America

Self-Compassion for Children and Caregivers


Atomic Habits by James Clear (En Espanol)

Burnout by Amelia Nagoski, DMA and Emily Nagoski, Ph.D.

How to Tame the Tumbles by Eileen Beltzner (for youth)

Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff, Ph.D.

By Megan McQueen. Spanish translation by IRCO’s International Language Bank.

Megan McQueen is a warmhearted teacher, coach, consultant, and writer. She grounds her work in empathetic education, imparting a strong sense of community and social skills to those with which she works. Megan prioritizes emotional learning and problem solving skills. When not at work, she is most likely playing with her husband, two children, and pup.

Learn more about the Oregon Parenting Education Collaborative and read our blog!

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