In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, Monroe County Community College hosted the virtual “MIND Your Health” program on Tuesday.
Crystal Palmer, clinic director for the Monroe Community Mental Health Authority, spoke on Zoom to about 25 attendees.
Palmer holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work and has spent her entire career working with at-risk children and families. For more than 10 years she worked in Wayne County, but came to MCMHA about a year ago. She is also involved in the Monroe County Social Services Collaborative Network and Gabby’s Ladder.
For nearly an hour, Palmer spoke about mental health, offered statistics and self-care tips, and provided insight into the services offered by MCMHA.
Palmer defined “mental health” as the emotional, physical, and social well-being that impacts a person on a daily basis.
“Mental health affects everyone, from birth to the elderly. Even as a baby, mental health is affected,” she said. “When a baby and a mother aren’t connected, it impacts the child on a day-to-day basis. They can’t necessarily connect with others. It impacts them as they move through adulthood.
Mental health is as important as physical health.
“Having a healthy thinking brain impacts the choices you make. For physical (diseases), people are much more willing to go to the doctor to get them checked out. Not so much with the mental. But it affects you all the days, your thinking ability, your functioning. It’s just as important,” she said.
Many factors can affect a person’s mental health, including genes, life experiences, family history, abuse, and trauma.
“Trauma is a vast experience. What is traumatic for you may not be for others,” she said.
Mental illnesses are extremely common. Palmer cited several statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. More than 51 million people face mental illness every day. One in 20 adults has a serious mental illness. One in six young people, especially those between the ages of 6 and 17, has mental health problems.
“It’s been growing since the COVID pandemic. Even more people are coming for services,” Palmer said.
Half of all mental health problems begin at age 15. Seventy-five percent is evident by age 24.
“Early intervention programs can help. Most of my work with children and families is preventive service. Many still live with mental illness, but it helps you learn to manage and cope,” Palmer said.
There are many signs and symptoms of mental health problems, including: excessive worry, constant feeling of sadness, confusion and difficulty concentrating, extreme mood swings, prolonged irritability or anger, avoidance of social activities, difficulty establishing relationships with others, suicidal thoughts, intense fear of weight gain, extreme focus on appearance, changes in sleep patterns and hallucinations. Children with mental health issues may miss school, avoid going to bed, have frequent tantrums or have nightmares.
The good news, Palmer said, is that many resources and self-care options are available for sufferers.
“People live in recovery all the time. We know it’s possible,” she said.
Palmer offered several tips for improving mental health:
- Self-care: “It’s huge for your mental and physical health,” she said. Examples include mindfulness activities (like deep breathing).
- Regular exercise: “Do what works for you and commit to it,” Palmer said. She even suggested walking 15 minutes a day. “Exercise releases endorphins. You’re really better able to concentrate,” she said.
- Get enough rest: “When you don’t get enough rest, the brain thinks you’re hungry all the time. It really affects you when you don’t get enough rest,” Palmer said.
- Eat healthy: “Eat on a regular schedule. Include snacks. When you’re hungry, you’re not able to concentrate and think more about the food than the activity,” she said.
- Get outdoors: “Being in nature and spending time outdoors (while wearing sunscreen) is good for you. Endorphins and vitamin D are good for you. Enjoy the world around you,” Palmer said.
- Find a hobby: “People get busy and put their hobbies aside. Doing something you enjoy can have a positive impact on your mental health. Reading, going out in nature, walking, spending time with others, volunteering, anything that brings you joy. Find your business,” she said.
- Spend time with others: “Try to avoid isolation,” she said.
When a person’s mental health needs go beyond self-care, many services and treatments are available, including group and peer therapy, counseling, psychotherapy, medications and more. Treatments are available through private practices, clinics, and community mental health providers, such as the MCMHA. Children may also have options at their school’s counseling office and at school clinics.
MCMHA primarily serves clients with the most serious illnesses, but anyone can visit and/or get help finding local treatment options.
“We invite you to call us. We can assess your eligibility. If you are not quality, we have peer support (staff) to help connect you to services in the community, including therapeutic resources , housing resources, access to food. It’s really great service,” Palmer said.
Some services offered by MCMHA include outpatient therapy, psychology services, support programs and more. Focused case management coordinates many services for a client.
“Tell us what you are going through, where you have been and where you would like to be. We help work with you to create that plan. We help and guide you. You are responsible for your own treatment,” Palmer said.
Wraparound is a children’s program that brings together a team to serve the child and their needs holistically.
MCMHA is located at 1001 S. Raisinville. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays; appointments and visits are welcome. To reach the MCMHA, call (734) 243-7340 or visit https://www.monroecmha.org/. His 24-hour crisis number is (800) 886-7340.