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Op-ed: The Gift of Better Mental Health

Friday, December 13, 2019 | 07:35am

By Marie Williams, LCSW, Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

This holiday season, I want you to give yourself a gift that always fits, is never the wrong color, and can definitely be re-gifted – Better Mental Health.

The stress of the holidays combined with shorter days and colder weather can be a one-two punch that really gets people feeling down this time of year.  Here are just a few simple ways we all can work toward better mental health.

Talk to others, and I mean really talk.  Listen to others.  Really listen and lean into the conversation.  As humans, we naturally crave connection, and one of the easiest ways to do that is through meaningful conversation.  At home, at work, at church, and even at the grocery store, we all have opportunities to interact, to listen, and to be heard.

Develop natural supports.  A natural support is a trusted friend or relative, someone you can turn to when you have problems to solve or successes to celebrate.  Referring back to the first point, you develop natural supports by getting to know someone, finding common ground, and learning what it’s like to walk in their shoes.  These natural supports in our lives are so valuable, but they are truly priceless during stressful times.

Take time for yourself.  There’s been an awakening to the importance of self-care.  Specifically take time for yourself and use it to meditate, pray, or otherwise nourish your spirit.  In a time when so much of our lives are lived publicly for others to examine, this introspection can be a tool to reconnect us to our true selves.

Find new ways to incorporate exercise and movement into your daily routine.  Resolution-making time is right around the bend, but rather than setting an unattainable goal, make the little decisions that will help you become more active every day.  Park farther from the door when you go to the store.  Take the stairs instead of the elevator.  Take a walk while the sun is shining.  Your body will thank you and so will your brain.

Last but definitely not least, don’t be afraid to ask for or offer help.  Mental health is something that we all experience, and it’s constantly changing based on an infinite number of criteria.  Our state, our nation, and our world are all becoming more welcoming to people who raise their hands and ask for help.  Our state, with the leadership of Governor Bill Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly, supports the mental health needs of the uninsured and indigent we are called to serve.  One of the biggest gifts we’ve been given as a department is an additional $5,000,000 to expand the Behavioral Health Safety Net.  We are truly grateful for our local community behavioral health providers who offer these life-changing services across the state.  If you are uninsured, at or below 138% of Federal Poverty level, and are experiencing mental health concerns, please call 800-560-5767 or visit our website (http://tn.gov/behavioral-health/bhsn) and learn more about the Behavioral Health Safety Net.

If you need help, or if you are experiencing a mental health emergency, please call our Statewide Crisis Line: 855-CRISIS-2 (855-274-7471)

If you need a referral to addiction treatment services, please call or text the Tennessee REDLINE: 800-889-9789