Spreading awareness for mental health

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 28, 2024

SALISBURY — May is Mental Health Awareness Month and its purpose is to bring to light how individuals might be struggling internally with problems that are not as easy to see as a broken leg or arm. 

Michelle Ivey is a licensed clinical social worker and the chief program officer of Daymark Recovery Services. She is in charge of the operational and clinical services for Daymark’s outpatient, community based crisis and enhanced services.

Ivey said the stigmas that surround mental health make people believe it’s their own fault for having depression and anxiety when it’s really an actual illness that requires treatment from a medical professional.

“We think that people have greater control of this than they actually do,” Ivey said. 

Ivey said a combination of a person’s brain chemistry and their upbringing both play a role in how healthy they are both mentally and physically. 

“Let’s say someone with a traumatic past, their brain chemicals are going to be different than a person who has not had a traumatic past. We know traumatic events in childhood affects everything from cancer rates to diabetes to early death,” Ivey said.

Genetics also play a role in mental health like how schizophrenia can be passed down from one generation to another. As people get older, their hormones change due to a number of reasons such as pregnancy that can lead to depression and other problems. 

Grief, loss, divorce and other outside circumstances that happen to people can potentially exacerbate mental health symptoms. During COVID, having most of the world practice social distancing left plenty of people feeling lonely. 

“Some people do not do well with isolation, they need more human contact than others. So that can be part of our personality. Those are all factors that we have to look at when considering a person’s mental health,” Ivey said. 

Ivey said when someone’s mental health starts to negatively influence their day-to-day life, that is when they should reach out for assistance before it gets worse.

“If you’re unable to go to work, you’re unable to parent, you’re unable to go to school, you see a child who is no longer getting as good grades as they once had, absenteeism. When you start to see those impactful things in life, that’s the time to seek help,” Ivey said. 

Besides counseling, Ivey said establishing positive mental health habits is important for people in the long term.

“Practicing gratitude, focusing on what you have versus what you don’t have, being mindful. Mindfulness is something that we are very plagued with in our society right now because everything is coming at us at once between our TVs, our computers, we always have screens. We have this thing called a cell phone that’s constantly in our hand and it leads to overstimulation,” Ivey said.

In recent years, younger people have started to take their mental health more seriously and Ivey hopes that can build into a more accepting future.

“It’s O.K. to struggle, it’s O.K. to have concerns and address them. We don’t want our folks who have mental health conditions to be hidden,” Ivey said. 

For anyone that is dealing with mental health issues, Ivey wants to reiterate all that there is for them to get back on track towards recovery.

“Making sure people realize that there are mobile crisis services, that there is the 9-8-8 number that people can contact if they are struggling and they need help. Maybe they’re feeling anxious and suicidal all the way to a person experiencing thoughts of harming themselves. We definitely want people to know services are available,” Ivey said.