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Four Tips to Improve Mental Health During BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month

July’s BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month is an observance dedicated to raising awareness about the unique mental health challenges faced by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. This month emphasizes the importance of culturally competent mental health care and aims to address the disparities in mental health services and outcomes among these communities.

In this Q&A, Magellan Health’s Eric A. Williams, Ph.D., LCMHCS, LMFT, LPC, and Stephanie White, LMFT, regional supervisors for the Military and Family Life Counselor program, share four ways BIPOC can improve their mental health.

Q: What advice would you give to BIPOC individuals seeking to improve their mental health and well-being?

Dr. Eric Williams:

#1 Prioritize Self-Care

How you treat yourself reflects your relationship with yourself. This includes your diet, sleep hygiene, social support system, and spirituality. Here are a few strategies to prioritize your self-care:

  • Body: Get regular medical and dental check-ups. Engage in regular physical activity, eat a balanced diet, and get enough sleep. Lastly, take prescription medications as prescribed.
  • Mind: Ensure a healthy balance of mass media, social media, and other uplifting sources of information. This doesn’t mean you have to give up your social media accounts, but it does mean you emphasize being exposed to information that supports your mental well-being. This could include practicing relaxation techniques like meditation or deep breathing, reading, learning a new skill, or spending time in nature.
  • Spirit: Consider establishing a personal vision reflective of your values and purpose in life. Spend time with loved ones, practice gratitude, and engage in activities that nourish your sense of meaning.

#2 Build Strong Connections with Family and Friends

Strong social connections are essential for mental well-being.

  • Nurture existing relationships: Intentionally create time for friends and family who support you and make you feel good. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries with people who drain your energy or contribute to negativity in your life.
  • Expand your social circle: Join clubs, or sports leagues (i.e., bowling, softball, etc.), volunteer in community organizations to include church and other non-profit organizations, or take classes to connect with people who share your interests.

#3 Seek Professional Help if Needed

You may experience racial discrimination, stresses and microaggressions, which can influence your emotional well-being in ways these tips may not address. Don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help if you’re struggling. Finding a therapist or counselor who understands your cultural background is important. Look for therapists who identify as BIPOC themselves or have experience working with BIPOC communities.

Stephanie White:

#4 Practice Self-Affirming Habits for Adults and Children

I highly recommend a personal habit of affirming your color and appearance through meditation and self-care. Take good care of your coils and strands, your health, and your heart. For our youth, I also recommend that we embrace and build a collection of literature that is directed toward children of color, celebrating their uniqueness as well as their belonging.

For more information to increase awareness about BIPOC mental health and wellbeing and the importance of recognizing and addressing concerns, visit MagellanHealthcare.com/BIPOC-MH.




Operation Warfighter: Career Transition Assistance for Wounded Warriors

For many Service members, dealing with an injury or illness can change the entire trajectory of their career paths, leaving them unsure of their future. According to the Government Accountability Office, over 200,000 military personnel leave the military annually. While most of these Service members leave on their own terms, many leave for medical reasons caused by their active-duty service. What happens when a military career ends unexpectedly and how do we take care of our recovering Service members?

Military Transition Challenges

In addition to experiencing anxiety and uncertainty around a new civilian career, some additional challenges veterans may experience with transitioning from military life to civilian life include:

Health Concerns: Health is a top concern for veterans after separating from military service. A Veterans Affairs study found that 53% of participants reported having chronic physical health conditions within three months of leaving the military. Additionally, mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may worsen during this period.

  • Identity Reevaluation: The abrupt end of a military career can lead to a profound identity crisis. Veterans may struggle with defining their sense of purpose and self-worth outside the military.
  • Navigating Services: Veterans transitioning out of the military may need to learn how to access civilian services such as healthcare, life insurance, and other benefits. These services were previously provided by the military, so adjusting to the new system can be challenging.
  • Social Network Changes: Leaving the military means losing the built-in social network that comes with military life. Veterans may find it difficult to establish new connections and maintain a sense of camaraderie.
  • Employment: While most veterans successfully transition into civilian jobs, others face difficulties in finding suitable employment. Adjusting to a different work environment and culture can be a significant challenge.
  • Paperwork and Benefits: Navigating the paperwork and processes involved in obtaining benefits and services from the Department of Veterans Affairs can be overwhelming. Veterans may need assistance in understanding their entitlements and how to access them.

Navigating the Transition to Civilian Employment

Magellan Federal helps solve the problems of Service members transitioning from the military to the civilian sector. Operation Warfighter (OWF) is a Department of Defense (DoD) internship program that provides opportunities for recovering Service members to participate in internships with Federal agencies during their medical board and rehabilitation process.

The main objective of OWF is to place recovering Service members in supportive work settings that positively impact their recovery. The program presents opportunities to facilitate the recovering Service members’ development and employment readiness by assisting in providing comprehensive resources that assist them with their transition and support their needs. This is done through resume building, exploring employment interests, and developing job skills through internship opportunities. Currently, there are over 533 participating Federal agencies that accept OWF interns.

Building Skills for a Civilian Career

Magellan’s Regional Coordinators (RCs) work with the recovering Service members to help identify areas of interest and hone in on transferable skills along with soft skills they have gained through their military service. Our Regional Coordinators coach them on how to build resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and make suggestions to assist them in learning how to navigate a civilian workforce setting. Our Regional Coordinators partner with all branches of service and work closely with Transition Coordinators, Recovery Care Coordinators, Physical Evaluation Board Liaison Officers, Command Teams, Medical Providers, and Individual Disability Evaluation System staff to ensure participation is in the best interest of the recovering Service member.

The average Medical Board process lasts between 180 days (about 6 months) to 1 year. The OWF program is a valuable experience that lasts between 90 and 120 days (about 4 months). Participation in OWF can positively impact recovery time, provide valuable work experience in a non-military environment, and assist with developing new skills while providing benefits of career preparedness upon transition to civilian life.

All OWF Regional Coordinators have personal experience as military spouses or have served in the military themselves. They understand the military lifestyle and culture, and the stress surrounding transitioning out of the service.

Getting Started

Operation Warfighter Regional Coordinators are in 10 different regions throughout the United States. These individuals work with wounded, ill, and injured Service members at all military installations. A Service member can participate in OWF if they are on active duty and meet the basic criteria of being enrolled in the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) and/or assigned to a service Wounded Warrior program. The first step in the OWF process is to obtain “medical and command approval” from the Service member’s recovery team and chain of command. Once they are determined to be ready to participate, a Regional Coordinator assists the individual in identifying an internship opportunity based on their interests and capabilities.

The Operation Warfighter program is a wonderful opportunity for Service members to get real-world work experience to ease the transition to civilian life. Magellan Federal is proud to deliver OWF services that make a difference in the lives of recovering Service members around the nation.




Enhancing Soldier Wellness and Performance

As our understanding of soldier wellness evolves, it’s clear that a comprehensive approach is essential. In today’s military landscape, physical fitness alone isn’t enough – mental toughness is equally crucial. The U.S. Army Combatives Program serves as a prime platform to nurture this mental resilience, offering Soldiers a pathway to peak performance both on and off the battlefield.

The U.S. Army Combatives Program, which includes hand-to-hand combat training, offers a valuable avenue to promote mental well-being and overall performance among soldiers. Beyond its traditional role in honing physical combat skills, this program has evolved to encompass a broader mission – one that emphasizes the cultivation of mental resilience as a cornerstone of soldier effectiveness.

Building Mental Resilience

The benefit of combat sports is that they cultivate mental toughness like no other. Soldiers are pushed to their limits, not just physically but mentally, fostering adaptability, perseverance, and a steadfast attitude in the face of adversity. Studies, such as those published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, underscore combat sports’ profound impact on enhancing mental toughness – a cornerstone of soldier effectiveness in high-stress environments.

Fostering Unity within Units

Engaging in combat sports brings Soldiers together uniquely and intensely. It strengthens team members’ bonds, trust, and camaraderie, enhancing unit cohesion and morale. A 2020 study in the Journal of Military, Veteran, and Family Health found that Soldiers who participated in combatives training reported higher levels of cohesion and teamwork – vital components for mission success.

Providing an Outlet for Frustration and Stress

The rigors of military life often lead to pent-up frustration and stress. The Combatives Program provides Soldiers with a constructive outlet to channel these emotions. By engaging in controlled physical exertion, soldiers can mitigate stress and avoid detrimental coping mechanisms. Studies, such as those in the Journal of Military Psychology, affirm the therapeutic benefits of combat sports in stress management among military personnel.

Integration of Mental Performance Consultants

To unlock the full potential of combative training, the integration of mental performance consultants is paramount. Thes specialists offer soldiers cognitive tools and strategies to optimize their performance in combat and everyday life. From stress management to enhancing focus and resilience, mental performance consultants provide a holistic approach to soldier wellness.

Improving Decision-Making Under Stress

In high-stakes scenarios, split-second decisions can mean the difference between success and failure. Research in Military Psychology underscores how combat sports improve decision-making under stress. Mental performance consultants further refine this skill, equipping soldiers with the mental fortitude to think critically and act decisively in the heat of battle.

Enhancing Recovery and Resilience

Injuries and setbacks are a part of military life, and mental resilience is crucial for recovery. Mental performance consultants can guide soldiers in maintaining a positive mindset during rehabilitation, reducing the psychological impact of injuries, and facilitating a quicker return to peak performance. The U.S. Army Combatives Program offers a wealth of mental benefits essential for Soldier wellness and performance. By fostering mental toughness, unit cohesion, and stress management, this program contributes significantly to Soldier readiness.




DocTalk: Discussing Workplace Violence Awareness Month & Mental Health with Dr. Yasmeen Benjamin

April is recognized as Workplace Violence Awareness Month. Forbes recently published an article entitled, “Workplace Safety And Well-Being On The Decline In 2024, Study Shows.” The article highlighted findings from a new report from the company, Traliant, Fear Factors: A 2024 Employee Survey Report on Workplace Violence, Harassment and Mental Health. According to the report:

  • 1 in 4 people interviewed stated they have witnessed workplace violence happening to another employee in the last five years,
  • 12% said they had been the target of workplace violence themselves.
  • 86% said they either strongly or somewhat agree that employers need to do more to address the mental health needs of employees in the workplace.

In this Q&A, Magellan Healthcare’s Psychologist Advisor Dr. Yasmeen Benjamin provides insights on the connection between workplace violence and mental health awareness and suggestions on how employers can build a culture of safety.

Q: How does workplace violence awareness intersect with mental health awareness in the workplace?

Dr. Yasmeen Benjamin: A sense of safety is considered a basic human need in order for us to thrive in our daily lives. Given that we spend the majority of our time in the work environment, work environments must value safety, establish a set of expectations and policies around safety, and consistently reinforce these policies in order to provide a sense of safety for its workers.

Q: How can workplaces create a culture of safety and prevention to mitigate the risk of violence in the workplace?

Dr. Benjamin: The culture of safety should be imbedded within the values of the organization, as our actions tend to follow our value system.

Examples of safety-specific actions that would follow this value system are:

  • Trainings
  • Having ongoing discussions about the importance of building a culture of safety
  • Directly and publicly addressing issues of workplace violence when they occur

Additionally, I’m a huge believer that prevention starts with an ability to assess. What is the propensity for violence given individual, social, and environmental factors? Are trends changing and how does one adjust and become more informed as a result of the trends?

Q: What are some common mental health challenges that employees may face as a result of workplace violence or other workplace stressors?

Dr. Benjamin: When safety is lacking, we can see an increase in stress, depression, anxiety, relationship problems, and job dissatisfaction (in the form of absenteeism, tardiness, and high turnover rates). In the instance of workplace violence, people can go on to develop conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder as well as other conditions. It is important to note that all of these symptoms and conditions are treatable with the right supports, resources, and interventions. It is also important to keep in mind, that generally speaking, the longer one is exposed to stressors, the longer symptoms can persist once the stressor is removed.

Q: What resources and support services should employers provide to promote mental well-being among employees?

Dr. Benjamin: It is important that we continue to take steps to make discussions surrounding mental health less taboo while respecting individual privacy. I highly suggest employees utilize insurance resources to access the mental healthcare that is available to them. Also, consider accessing wellness resources such as gym membership discounts and meditation/mindfulness app discounts. As best as we can (with a recognition that life can be extremely busy) it’s important to build and maintain healthy self-care habits. These types of habits can be instrumental when combating work-related and life-related stressors.

Q: Are there specific strategies or initiatives that employers can implement during Workplace Violence Awareness Month to promote mental health awareness and support?

Dr. Benjamin: Bringing attention to the topic is an important start. Hopefully, articles like this spark the type of assessment that I mentioned earlier and lead readers to include a personal assessment of their own mental health status and wellness practices.




Tips for Counseling Success with Military Children: Q&A with Paul Taraborelli LICSW, IMH-E®

With approximately 1.7 million dependent military children across all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, experts who support military children must understand the unique experiences and diverse needs that require a specialized counseling approach.

This topic will be the focus of the upcoming Magellan Federal webinar on Thursday, May 16, “Connecting with Military Children: Counseling Techniques for Success.” Expert panelists for this webinar will include:

  • Keionna Baker, LPC, LMHC, LCMHC, clinical project manager, Military & Family Life Counseling Program
  • Paul Taraborelli LICSW, IMH-E®, child youth behavioral director, Military & Family Life Counseling Program
  • Susan Trotman, LCSW, regional supervisor, Military & Family Life Counseling Program

The webinar will focus on trends, concerns, and intervention techniques that create a sense of connectedness and belonging for military-connected children and youth. To attend, register here.

In this Q&A, expert panelist Paul Taraborelli LICSW, IMH-E® shares a preview of information that will be shared in the webinar and why it is critical for counselors and other professionals who work with military children to invest time into enhancing their skills by attending.

Q: What are some key challenges that military children commonly face?

Paul Taraborelli: There are more than 1.7 million military children who face many challenges and unique experiences because of their parents’ service. Military families move on average every two to three years, impacting military children through changing schools and support networks. Military families often experience changes in parents’ access in terms of regular face-to-face contact, changes in caregivers, and changes in family routines due to a military parent being called away from their family to serve and support their mission. To manage these changes during their overall growth and development as a child, military children often rely on resilience skills they develop over time. By acknowledging and celebrating the many unique aspects of military culture and being a military-connected child, we can help these children be equipped to emotionally adjust to challenges throughout their lives.

Q: How do these challenges impact their emotional well-being?

Taraborelli: Due to changes in locations, fluctuations in daily schedules and routines, and the temporary absence of a primary caregiver/parent can lead to short-term and possibly long-term effects on a child’s overall wellbeing and the development of age appropriate social emotional skills.

Q: What are ways that counselors can help military children navigate these transitions and build resilience?

Taraborelli:

Focus topics when working with military children to support and enhance social emotion skill development and reduce stress, including:

  • Resiliency skill-building
  • Development and use of age-appropriate problem-solving skills
  • Development of healthy relationships skill building, including ways to express and manage their emotions

Q: What are some common misconceptions or stereotypes about military children, and how can counselors work to challenge and overcome these misconceptions?

Taraborelli: A common misconception is that military children are used to moving a lot, changing schools, making new friends, and can adjust easily to changes in their lives. Counselors can engage military children in conversations about how they are coping with and adjusting to these changes both in the past and presently. Counselors can explore, identify, and develop age-appropriate coping skills while working with military-connected children. If possible, provide opportunities for peer support through group meetings and activities with other military-connected peers.

Another misconception is that due to attending different schools in different locations, military children are not as academically prepared as their nonmilitary peers. Counselors can explore with military children their learning journey and what they have learned both academically and outside of school during their life as a military child. Counselors can focus on, celebrate, and acknowledge the experiences they have had compared to their nonmilitary peers and how those experiences contribute to their overall sense of self and the skills they have developed academically, socially, and emotionally.

Q: Lastly, what advice would you give to counselors who are looking to enhance their skills and effectiveness in working with military children and their families?

Taraborelli: Make a conscious effort to better understand the unique aspects of military culture and what military children experience in their lives as military children. Use this knowledge to provide additional information and insight when assessing presenting issues or concerns a military child may be facing and develop tailored goals for counseling and support for the child.




Five Ways to Survive ‘Sports Fan Depression’

The National Football League’s 58th Annual Super Bowl ended with a winning team and fans who might be recovering from a tough season. Whether you’re an athlete or a fan watching sporting events in person or at home, the competitive nature of sports can be both exhilarating and heart-wrenching. However, what happens when the passion felt for the game triggers emotions such as sadness or depression? In this interview with Magellan Federal’s Performance Coaching Manager Meg Helf, M.S., CMPC®, we explore the concept known as “sports fan depression.”

What is Sports Fan Depression and is it a real diagnosis?

Meg Helf: Although Sports Fan Depression is not an official diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5-TR), many of us are all too familiar with the emotional rollercoaster that comes along with being a fan. Reactions to any number of life events can linger and develop into diagnosable depression, prolonged grief disorder, or an adjustment disorder with depressed mood. Just as we experience grief with the loss of a relationship or a loved one, a job or an opportunity, we may experience grief at the end of a season or when our favorite team comes up short.

For sports fans, acute grief is that initial intense feeling after a loss takes place. This may manifest in a range of complex feelings such as sadness, anger, frustration, and disappointment, which often isn’t discussed in the context of sport. When this grief is experienced for extended periods of time and starts to impact our daily functioning (e.g., work, eating habits, sleep, relationships), we might be experiencing what many call Sports Fan Depression.

What is it about sports that can trigger this feeling?

Helf: There are several reasons that sports can trigger these feelings. Fans make emotional, psychological, physical, and sometimes financial investments in their teams. There are a plethora of ways that sports can impact our wellbeing: sports can be integral to one’s identity, sports can drive our daily activities, and, sports have the ability to create communities and develop relationships.

The more someone identifies with their team the stronger they may feel loss about the outcome of the game or result of the season. These events can feel like a blow to our personal identity when we have a sense of pride and belonging. Despite superstitions and lucky shirts, socks, and routines, fans have a lack of influence and impact on the outcome of the game. This may set many up with unrealistic expectations and add a sense of helplessness. A player on the field has the ability to distinguish what went well, identify what they and the team need to develop, and maintain a future focused growth mindset regardless of the outcome. With less control, it is understandable that fans struggle with optimism because they cannot take any action to make the desired change.

For some, being a fan is a part-time (or full-time!) job. Between watching games, competing in fantasy leagues, and researching statistics, our daily lives are filled with something that we are passionate about. Similarly to how some marathon runners experience the “post-race blues,” when a season is over, we may feel a loss for all the time we invested and feel like a large part of our daily excitement and activities are missing. As the season comes to a close, that taste of the adrenaline, tension, energy and anticipation of each game fades and may leave us wanting.

Fans also rarely go it alone. Our favorite team has the ability to connect people, both friends and strangers alike. Fans connect across time zones for draft parties and engage in banter through fantasy leagues, spend hours tailgating before a game, and gather for watch parties. Families strengthen bonds, adorning newborns in gear and creating traditions. Strangers high-five. They hug. They share food, drinks and handwarmers. Even opposing fans engage in playful banter and share stories. Entire cities come together to support their team. We win together. We lose together. And when the season is over, we are losing these opportunities for such a meaningful part of life – connection to others.

How can someone identify if they suffer from this condition?

Helf: A couple of symptoms experienced with depression are diminished interest or pleasure in activities, depressed mood, significant unintentional weight gain or loss, insomnia or sleeping too much, fatigue or loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt, and diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness. Prolonged grief symptoms are intense emotional pain, loss of identity, difficulty moving on with life, emotional numbness, feeling that life is meaningless, and intense loneliness.

Individuals should build self-awareness about the intensity and duration of their symptoms, and the impact they have on their daily lives. Tap into your thoughts. Are they pervasive? Is the loss of the game bleeding over to other areas of your life? Be purposeful with your next steps and be on the alert for destructive or non-productive patterns that may not help you (e.g., alcohol, adrenaline/thrill seeking, substance abuse, risk-taking).

What are steps someone should take if they believe they have Sports Fan Depression?

Helf:

  • Make some intentional time to mourn the loss and build self-awareness of when intrusive thoughts creep in so you can shift to more productive, optimistic style thinking.
  • Expand your identity – who are you outside of being a loyal, avid fan?
  • Develop and maintain healthy habits – make time to move your body, prioritize healthy eating, hydration, and sleep. These habits are always crucial, but especially helpful for individuals who are struggling.
  • Cultivate connections with others – reconnect with your fellow fans in a different context and develop new communities. Diversify your portfolio on interests and discover activities that generate positive emotions and engagement.
  • Unplug from your fandom. Clear your head and provide an opportunity to get a little emotional distance from the season. Taking time for yourself will sow benefits for you and those around you. If the post-season funk stays around for longer than 2-4 weeks, find a professional to talk to or take a depression screen.

It’s important to understand that it is perfectly natural to have emotional highs and lows when you are so connected and invested with a specific sports team. Just because you experience some grief, sadness, or disappointment does not mean you have depression. It is typical to have reactions when any season changes and normal to reset your compass.

Perhaps consider why you watch sports in the first place. Is it the appreciation of athletic prowess? The comradery and connection with others? Pride in your town? Understanding what is most important to you can help you squeeze every ounce of enjoyment and excitement out of the game, while arming you with strategies to cultivate your wellbeing.

For more information on depression screenings and tips on wellness, please check out: The Journey to Wellness: Do I need a Depression Screening?

And remember…there is always next season!


Resources

Online screens and helplines: 

  • Anxiety & Depression Association of America: (1)
  • The Reach Institute (2)
  • Mental Health America (16)
  • Veteran’s Administration (17)
  • SAMHSA National Helpline: 1-800-662-4357
  • NAMI Helpline: 1-800-950-6264

 




DocTalk: Dr. Squillaro Shares How February’s ‘Time to Talk Day’ Helps to Normalize Mental Health Conversations

February 1st is known around the world as Time to Talk Day. This is a national day that encourages individuals to have an open dialogue about their mental health and to be supportive of others.

In this DocTalk article, Magellan Healthcare’s Medical Director Dr. Chris Squillaro shares why the act of talking about mental health is so important, the common misconceptions about mental health, and advice on how to approach the conversation for all age groups.

Q: In your opinion, why is it important to talk openly about mental health?

Dr. Chris Squillaro: Open conversation is important to communicate our feelings and emotions.  Without the ability to share the things that we are feeling inside, they can become confusing, which can feel out-of-control and lead to worsening emotions and possibly behavior.  Conversing about mental health also normalizes the subject matter.  The more frequently mental health is openly discussed the more accustomed we become to discuss it within our relationships and as a society.  Lastly, talking about it helps us to realize that we are not alone.  Since mental health and substance use is so prevalent in our culture, every one of us likely has a connection to someone struggling with one or the other.

Conversely, not openly discussing mental health has no benefit.  History has already shown that this only leads to stigma and worsens the potential problems associated with unaddressed mental health conditions.  If we’re not openly discussing it, we’re also not openly seeking solutions when needed.

Q: In 2024, what do you think is the biggest misconception about mental health?

Dr. Squillaro: That mental health issues are resolving as fast as our concerns about COVID.  Even though we are moving away from the day-to-day threat of COVID to us and our loved ones, mental health and the mental health system are far from recovered.  We are seeing consequences both in terms of children and adolescents who lost social connection at critical junctures in their development and are struggling to catch up from the delay.  This not only impacts them but also their family unit and their community.  The increase in alcohol and drug use that occurred during the height of the pandemic was not resolved.  Many of the people who developed addictions are just now starting to seek help and there are many who have not realized that there is a problem.

At the same time there is a greater need as the delivery of mental health services shifted.  Services moved from primarily face-to-face to virtual.  With this came a shift in the workforce.  Many mental health workers sought virtual positions and left critical services that required face-to-face interaction.  This left vacancies that have not been filled.  Every service in every level of care is experiencing staffing shortages.  The misconception is that as society normalizes, the mental health system has normalized and can accommodate the demand.  However, we are not seeing that same level of normalization at a time when it is needed.

Q: How do you think we can create a more supportive and understanding community when it comes to mental health?

Dr. Squillaro: It starts in the home.  Each generation has gotten better at this.  The best way to influence change is to teach our young.  More knowledgeable and understanding parents teach their children acceptance.  These children then begin to make a difference as they interact in the community and in school.  As the members of the generation mature, they create a more compassionate and embracing community.  When children grow up with these concepts that are taught and modeled in the home, their thinking and behavior is more solidified and less likely to be influenced by many of the external influences that continue to be intolerant.  I doubt anyone feels that society will eliminate extreme points of view that preach intolerance.  But the hope is that these extremes get smaller with the majority being a community that is accepting and supportive.

Q: What role can friends, family, or colleagues play in supporting mental well-being, and how can they contribute positively to someone who may have mental health struggles?

Dr. Squillaro: In terms of having tougher conversations and feeling safe to communicate about mental health and mental health struggles, family and friends are critical. They contribute to each other’s lives by caring and having the best of intentions, even when saying things that aren’t always easy to hear or when someone isn’t necessarily ready for help.  Many times, family and friends will be the first to identify when something is wrong and should be the first to speak up.  The most positive thing you can do for someone is to let them know what you’re seeing and that you are a person they can come to for help.  They may not be ready in that moment and they may need additional encouragement, but being there is the hardest and best thing to do.

On the other end, as things begin to improve, they will also likely see it first.  They can encourage and provide that perspective to continue instilling hope.  They can walk the recovery journey with their loved ones and make the connection even stronger.

Q: What advice would you give to someone hesitant to talk about their mental health issues?

Dr. Squillaro: An analogy I use to make this point is that emotions are like water.  Eventually, there is nothing that can hold it back and when it breaks through, it is one of the most transformative and potentially destructive forces on the planet.  Hesitating to talk about mental health doesn’t mean it’s not there.  We’re only able to hold it back for so long before the pressure becomes so great that we no longer control how it comes out and what it destroys.  Talking about mental health is like choosing to release the pressure and having a more constructive say as to how those emotions come out.

Q: Can you share 3-4 ways to begin an open dialogue with someone about your need for support?

  • Identify the issue – you don’t need to know exactly what is wrong, only that your emotions are affecting your functioning.
  • Identify someone who has historically made you feel safe.
  • Take a risk – anxiety is about feeling conflicted. Choosing to move forward despite that feeling is how you begin to change take control of it.
  • Gather information – after you’ve taken one risk, a second, third or more becomes easier. In that process, collect what people tell you and find your own path forward.

Q: Are there unique ways to approach a discussion about mental health with an adult versus a child (under 18) or a young adult?

Dr. Squillaro: Pay attention to the language you use.  Whether it’s a child, adolescent, or an adult, they must be able to understand what you’re saying.  Logically, children will need more simple language and concepts.  It’s okay with adolescents to take a more informal approach to how you communicate.  You’re trying to connect with someone who is at a stage where they may not want to rely on authority figures or feel that they know better.  Adults can have a wide range of capabilities.  Trying to match the language they use will put it in terms they can understand.

Be aware of their developmental stage.  Each age group is at a different stage of brain development.  Children will need to be told the answer and will need help developing the solutions.  They are much more open to direction from authority figures.  Adolescents are more impulsive and tend to believe they can easily overcome the issues.  They may also be more comfortable receiving recommendations from peers, so look to engage people within their age group to help reach them.  Adults have more lived experience, and their decision-making is more progressed.  Predicting the consequences in areas of importance to them helps to prepare them engage in help.  No matter what age group, sometimes people need time to process information.

As a person trying to support someone with a mental health issue, patience and consistent messaging are key.  Very few people react immediately.  Continue to support them through their process and reinforce a message of help and hope that will eventually be heard when they are ready.

Q: What tools or resources would you recommend on this topic?

Dr. Squillaro: This may sound simplistic, but doing an online search can bring you to both national organizations and local resources that may be of benefit.  It offers choices about which sites, information, or resources speak to you.  Specifically, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a resource on this: How to Talk About Mental Health | SAMHSA.  Another great organization to seek support is the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Resources | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness.  NAMI also has local chapters and can provide support to families as well.

Your insurance provider will also have resources available on their website and may be able to aid in facilitating referrals or tools to help you understand what you’re feeling or start a conversation with someone who needs help.  Along the same lines, the county you live in has mental health resources and is well-versed in the network of providers who can provide the services needed.


Resources

How to Talk About Mental Health from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Resources from the National Alliance on Mental Illness




DocTalk: Dr. Candice Tate Shares Five Ways to Set Healthy Boundaries During the Holiday Season

Walk into any store after Halloween and you more than likely will see the twinkle of holiday lights, trees, and decorations that quickly remind us that the Christmas season is upon us. For some, these reminders are a welcomed sight, and, for others, these reminders may trigger feelings of stress.

One way to help ease stress levels can be by setting healthy boundaries. Magellan Healthcare’s medical director Candice Tate, MD, MBA, shares advice on the importance of setting healthy boundaries during the holiday season.

Q: What are some factors that you feel are adding to stress this holiday season?

Dr. Tate: I think people are still trying to get that pre-pandemic holiday spirit back. People feel overworked and underpaid. Many stressors do not seem to have a deadline or an endpoint. This is also the time when people tend to mourn the loss of loved ones or feel emotional because they are unable to attend family gatherings.

Q: What are the steps to setting healthy boundaries during the holiday season?

Dr. Tate:

  1. What are your needs and/or what are your stressors? This first step is important because it is difficult for others to know what you need and what stresses you. This can be effective by focusing on your top five.
  2. You should expect resistance from others because your needs may conflict with their needs. This can be a challenging step in establishing boundaries for that reason. This is also challenging because you are imposing a change from past behavior.
  3. You must communicate the boundaries and any subsequent changes. This may result in uncomfortable discussions and possibly conflict, but this is a necessary step in establishing boundaries. This is important for the people who will be directly impacted by the changes.
  4. You must be consistent with the boundaries and hold yourself accountable. Others may intentionally or unintentionally challenge your new rules and habits. It is important to stand firm and remind others of what has been discussed. For this step, practice makes perfect. The longer you are consistent in reinforcing your boundaries, the more beneficial the boundaries will become.
  5. Be prepared to distance yourself if necessary. On occasion someone may wholly reject your boundaries and object to any change. That is okay for them to do, and it is okay for you to distance yourself from the person or the situation. The boundary has been created to provide you with peace of mind and protection.

Q: What are examples of healthy boundaries? Is this important for both adults and children? How so?

Dr. Tate: An example of a healthy boundary during the holidays is setting a budget. Many people are faced with financial challenges due to rising costs of food and gifts. Many people feel that their disposable income has decreased over the past few years. Setting a budget for holiday spending to include gifts, decor, travel, and entertainment is a form of a boundary. Overspending causes anxiety, depression, and relationship problems. A budget can be beneficial for an individual and/or a family. It can be shared electronically or on paper, and it can be discussed with significant others and children. This allows for spending a certain amount, managing expectations, sparking creativity, and establishing new standards for the holidays.

The holiday season is an optimal time to take a social media break as another example. Recent reports in the news highlight how social media harms teenagers and children. Not only is this information not new, but we also know that social media negatively affects adults too. This is an opportunity to disconnect from what others are doing (or pretending to do) and allows you the space to focus on your values and the needs of your family.

There is so much pressure for us to experience a certain type of holiday season that usually includes overspending, indulgence, and being happy about it. Establishing boundaries is an opportunity to show yourself and your children that you can create positive and meaningful memories by doing things that suit your family based on your means and your values.