October is Depression and Mental Health Awareness Month

Young depressed woman talking to psychologist

By Janet Larson, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

October is Depression and Mental Health Awareness Month. Depression and mental health are topics not discussed in our personal lives, with friends or in the workplace. The goal of this important month is to bring attention to these often deemed taboo topics, hopefully encourage conversation, and make it “OK”.  We also want to reach out and help those in need, assist in finding services and resources those experiencing mental health conditions deserve.

There are many different types of depression and mental health disorders. From seasonal affective disorder (SAD) to bipolar disorder to generalized anxiety, to alcohol abuse, each one of these and many other mental health disorders can be diagnosed and treated specifically.

There are steps we can take to manage our own mental health. These suggestions should not be considered a substitute for seeing a mental health professional and receiving proper therapy.

  • Eat a healthy clean diet – Lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy. Drink lots of water, try and stay away from processed foods.
  • Be physically active every day – Perform an assessment of your level of activity. Set a goal for yourself to improve this. Any increase in movement is good. Use 3-10 minute walks during the day as a great way to decompress.
  • Set aside time for fun and relaxation – This could be curling up with a good book or playing outdoors. As adults we need to schedule outdoor playtime.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs – Both of these substances can alter your mood and make a bad situation worse.
  • Stay connected with friends and family – Having a strong social support network is key to maintaining a happy health mindset.
  • It’s OK not to be OK – Reach out to friends, family, or someone you feel comfortable talking to.

 As Minnesotans, we are at a higher risk to develop seasonal affective disorder. There is great research underway at the University of Minnesota on the importance of spending time outdoors and in nature.

We live in a time where hatred and being mean is prevalent. Where social media is accepted as truth, and cyber bullying is at an all-time high. It is time to put aside our differences and be kind to others. You have no idea what someone may be going through. Kindness is a great way to facilitate conversation, which is key to mental health.

Mental health is just as important as our physical health—perhaps even more so. It is key to understand the resources available as you seek to improve this aspect of your health. For more information on mental health awareness, visit: www.mentalhealthamerica.net

Janet Larson is a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner at Riverwood Healthcare Center.