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You have probably heard the public service announcements on television and social media announcing that May is Mental Health Awareness month. Since the 1940s National Mental Health Awareness Month offers education to the public about mental health with a focus on psychological disorders and a goal to reduce the myths and stigma surrounding mental health and treatment such as therapy. Raising awareness of mental health and normalizing counseling services are positive and effective steps in the campaign to improve the lives of millions of people coping with mental health concerns. However, mental health is much more than psychological disorders, it also concerns prevention and well-being, such as healthy coping for daily stressors, managing life transitions and the caring and tending of relationships, between parent and child, couples, family members, coworkers and even the relationship you have with yourself.

Research shows that mental health is not just important, but crucial; given the large numbers of people coping with stress, loneliness and a myriad of symptoms that can impact all aspects of life (World Health Organization, 2005). Taking a closer look, you may already know that Anxiety is the most common form of mental health condition. An estimated 40 million Americans aged 18 and older cope with an anxiety disorder. When you include all forms of both situational and chronic mental illness the number rises to 57.7 million people (NIHM). When we include other stressors such as marital conflict, a study from Utah State University shows that 40%–50% of all first marriages, and 60% of second marriages, will end in divorce. So, its clear that many people will face concerns that benefit from therapeutic services. In fact, Marriage and Family Therapists not only offer treatment for psychological disorders, but also relational issues, loss and stressors that can wreak havoc, if left unchecked.

It is important to celebrate and engage in efforts to bring public awareness to mental health concerns from Bipolar Disorder to managing the stressors of daily life. Marriage and Family Therapists are poised, ready to spring into action with therapeutic approaches and self-care methods for clients. But, with all the care Marriage and Family Therapists’ provide to others we can’t forget to expand Mental Health Awareness to therapists. We need to create boundaries and utilize self-care methods, just like our clients, to cope the unique issues of being a provider such as compassion fatigue, burn out and stress. Consider, how many times you have lifted a boundary to schedule a client, by cutting into personal time. Do you overwork or over schedule? Do you eat lunch at your desk? If you answered yes to any of these questions you may want to look at setting boundaries to help you balance work and life.

Do you actually, practice good sleep hygiene, take time to meditate and exercise? Do you reach out for support from colleagues? Do you drink enough water and eat a healthy diet. Are you are attuned to your experiences and needs. If, you answered yes, to most of these questions, you are doing a great job of self-care. If not, you may want to consider your own well-being, and put yourself first. May is Mental Health Awareness month for everyone, an opportunity to consider that the more you exercise your own emotional muscle, the more you provide your clients with stability, structure, safety and connection.

Cynthia Rebholz, M.S., LCMFT
Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist


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