We all know it: “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” And in large ways or small, most of us keep at least a few habits that help avoid health or dental problems in the future. We brush our teeth every day; maybe we even floss. We go for a walk because we know exercise keeps our heart healthy. We get our annual mammogram or flu shot, all because we know an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
So why not do the same for the prevention of mental health problems?
Mental illness can feel a lot murkier than a tooth or medical problem, but there are lots of ways to help reduce the chance of experiencing depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or other challenges. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, here’s a list of great mental wellness prevention tools. And what’s even better: they can all be done right here in the comfort of your own community.
That walk you take for your heart? It can help prevent depression and anxiety, too! Regular exercise – as well as time spent in nature – are great tools for improving your mental wellbeing. It can also relieve stress and even improve your memory.
Another great tool: creative activity. Whether you take an art class, knit a sweater, cook a meal, or complete a coloring page, creativity helps boost positive feelings and can even help people process trauma.
By far one of the most powerful ways to prevent mental illness is social connection. Whether it’s a brief chat with the checkout clerk at the grocery or a weekly happy hour with your friends, regular interaction with others has a significant impact on our emotional wellbeing and can lower the risk of depression and anxiety. So when you take that art class, invite a friend to come along. And if someone in your surroundings is struggling, offer them a listening ear, or suggest a resource they might try.
Finally, another impactful way to help promote wellness for everyone in our community is by simply joining the conversation about mental health and illness. The more we normalize talk about things like depression and anxiety, the more we create space for those around us, too, to open up about the challenges they’re facing and find the support they need.
So, join us in celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month by participating in one of the wonderful preventive activities being offered by your amazing local organizations. Sign your kids up for one of the great programs at the Boys & Girls Club. Take an art class at the Community Center or Art Escape. Enjoy the company of others at the Farmers’ Market or one of our other community events.
And on May 31, join Hanna in celebrating the grand opening of the Community Mental Health Hub. The Hub at Hanna, which offers preventative activities, informative classes, support groups as well as therapy services, was created to address the unmet health needs of the community, especially those afflicted by trauma and adversity.
Everyone is invited to join us and connect with many local non-profit organizations that have partnered to create this new collaboration. To learn more, visit hannacenter.org or call us at 707.933.4482.
Charlotte Hajer is Senior Director, Community Mental Health Hub at Hanna Center