Mental Health Awareness Week, May 11 – 15, the Delaware Suicide Prevention Coalition hosted tables in Hayes High School and Buckeye Valley Middle School with daily challenges for the students. The point of this week was to stress important coping skills for when things get tough, and encourage students to share their thoughts on the importance of good mental health.
Monday’s theme was “Get Outside!” Research has shown that those who exercise and spend time outdoors are less anxious/angry/depressed, and more relaxed/happy. In fact, even something as simple as petting a dog or cat can release the body’s feel-good hormones – serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin – to improve your mood. Kids were encouraged to talk about what physical activities they participated in, and what activities they had planned for the week outside of school. With summer beginning, some students talked about playing with friends outside, and a few even quoted chores – mowing the lawn, helping in the garden – as things they could do outdoors.
Tuesday’s theme, “Face to Face Time”, challenged the students a bit more. We asked them to think of a close friend of theirs, and to list what they liked about them. Tuesday’s theme emphasized the role of connectedness in good mental health: connectedness, or the sense that one belongs in a given community, is one of the strongest protective factors against suicidal risk and other mental health emergencies. Friends can also be an excellent support system through difficult times; we often turn to our friends first when we are in need of help. Community support systems are also available, including HelpLine of Delaware and Morrow’s 24/7 hotline (740-369-3316 in Delaware, or 419-947-2520 in Morrow).
Finally, Wednesday’s theme was “Random Acts of Kindness”. This day emphasized the importance of working in one’s community to help both others and yourself. Doing things for others help maintain good health; positive emotions reduce stress and boost our immune system. We asked students to list either three things they were grateful for, or three good things they’d done to help others. Many students listed volunteering, which has been shown to increase feelings of self-esteem, respect, motivation, and well-being. Even smaller acts of kindness are known to increase happiness.
HelpLine is dedicated to promoting mental wellness in Delaware and Morrow counties. In addition to our school programs, we offer a Signs of Distress community training for free. If you are interested in scheduling one of these trainings to help prevent depression and suicide in your community, please contact Max Lencl at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on getting outside, check out this blog post: http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20320942,00.html
For more information about connectedness, check this article: http://www.whise.org.au/resources/mental_health.html
For volunteer opportunities in Delaware County, check out Connections Volunteer Center at http://connectionsvolunteercenter.org/.