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4 Ways to Make a Difference During Mental Health Month

MAY 2, 2018 | 3-minute read

What do the words “mental health” mean to you?

For some, they might mean challenges — the anxiety, the trouble sleeping, the weight of depression. For others, these words are about treatment — the counselor or the medication.

There are many ways to think about mental health: Maybe it’s the big-picture benefits of reaching out for help. Maybe it’s reconnecting with a son. Discovering a new passion. Landing a job you love. Building a stronger you.

This May, in recognition of Mental Health Month, we are highlighting how “mental health” means different things to different people — and the real-life outcomes and possibilities of treatment. Whether you served in the military decades ago or you were just discharged last week; whether you’re a Veteran yourself or a Veteran’s family member or friend, there’s a path to recovery for you.

Check out these four simple ways to support a loved one’s mental health, benefit your community, or improve your own well-being.

1. Volunteer your time.

Volunteering not only has a lasting impact on those who you’re supporting, but also can provide a warm sense of fulfillment and purpose. Volunteer, join a club, or take up a hobby to share your strengths and wisdom with others. Set aside time throughout the month to focus on doing what you can to improve your community and support the people in your life. Every VA medical center has a local Voluntary Service office with information about volunteer programs and opportunities.

2. Talk positively about mental health.

The way you talk about mental health can shape how the people around you think about getting help. It’s important to focus on the positive outcomes of treatment, such as learning to manage PTSD symptoms, coping with anxiety, or overcoming depression.

In your conversations, you can reinforce the idea that mental health treatment works and recovery is possible. By highlighting the possibilities of mental health treatment, we can encourage others to seek help.

3. Get active.

You know your physical health improves from being more active, but you may not realize physical activity can also boost your mood and help you sleep better. Take a walk, jog, or go work out. Encourage a friend to go on a run with you, organize a group bike ride, or make a gym plan. Simple adjustments to your daily routine can go a long way to improve your mood and clear your mind.

4. Let someone know you’re there for them.

Seemingly small actions, like letting a Veteran know that you’re ready to talk when they are, can make a big impact. Let your loved one know the door is always open and you’re willing to listen without offering advice or suggestions. Even when Veterans are not ready to talk about what they’ve experienced, it helps them to know that their family members and friends are there for them when the time is right.

“You have to be that ear to listen, that shoulder to cry on, and that compassionate person to walk them through the next stage,” says Todd. His wife, Jodie, is a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran.


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