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May is Mental Health Awareness Month

May is a time to raise awareness about mental health to help reduce the stigma that can come with a mental health diagnosis. This year, Mental Health America (MHA) is encouraging people to look at the world around them and consider how their surroundings may be impacting their mental health. Three key factors in our living environment directly impact our mental health: 1) housing stability and home environment, 2) community, and 3) nature.

According to MHA, people who do not have a consistent home base can be left feeling distressed, disconnected, or isolated. Having stable housing is beneficial to mental health because it lends itself to feelings of comfort, support and calmness, helps promote daily routines, and provides connections to the local community.

Another area of living environment that can directly impact mental health is the zip code in which they live. When someone is a part of a strong community within their neighborhood, their mental health is protected through shared support, resources, and joyful connections. In neighborhoods facing challenges like gentrification, community violence, or a lack of resources, being an advocate for change can bring hope and positive connections throughout the community.

Positive mental health outcomes also come with spending time in nature. People who spend time in nature have a reduced risk of developing mental health conditions. They also benefit from improved focus, lower stress, and have an overall better mood. A simple walk in the park or sitting in your backyard can have a direct positive impact on your mental health.

If you’re taking steps to improve your surroundings but are still struggling with your mental health, you may be experiencing signs of a mental health condition. It may be time to reach out to a mental health provider to help you figure out what is going on and determine next steps. The world around us can be both positive and negative – bringing joy and sadness, hope and anxiety.

Learn more with Mental Health America’s 2023 Mental Health Month toolkit, which provides free practical resources, such as how an individual’s environment impacts their mental health, suggestions for making changes to improve and maintain mental well-being, and how to seek help for mental health challenges.

Note: Grants totaling more than $786,000 from 46 funds within the Community Foundation supported Samaritan Counseling since 2021.

Article reprinted with permission from Samaritan Counseling. Hayley is a clinician for Samaritan Wellness Screen and serves on the traveling team across 12 area school districts. Her job is to help connect students and families to mental health services after young people screen positive for mental health concerns.

What does a Community Foundation do? Glad you asked! Learn more here.

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