Mental Health Awareness Month | Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium

Mental Health Awareness Month




2022 Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental health plays a big role in overall well-being. As we go through life we have both good and bad experiences. By balancing our experiences with the basics of mental health, we can incorporate positive habits as a way to support our own mental wellness and lead a healthy life.

Please join us through the month of May to honor Mental Health Awareness Month with weekly activities aimed to enhance your overall wellness.

Starting Monday, May 2, surveys will be available for the posted weekly activities, so bookmark this page and come back each week for your opportunity to win a $100 Visa gift card and prize package! Prize winners will be selected at random. One entry per person, per week.  



Week 3, May 16-22: Recognizing when you need help

What we will learn:

  • Identify when you are stressed and out of balance
  • Recognize when your thoughts, feelings and behaviors change

Pay attention to your usual thoughts, feelings and behaviors. How is your typical mood? Energy level? Appetite? Sleep routine? Social life? Physical health? How do your thoughts change when you experience something that causes you stress?

Recognizing when our thoughts, feelings and behaviors have changed significantly is the first step to acknowledging help is needed.

Learn more about mental health facts and conditions at https://mhanational.org/ and take a mental health screening at https://screening.mhanational.org/screening-tools/

Activity: Build your coping toolbox

We all have tools in our coping toolbox when times get tough. Coping skills are strategies to help us deal with difficult situations and emotions. Traditional activities, like hunting, song and dance and even using humor are all ways our ancestors taught us to cope with difficult situations.

Aim to:

★ Create a list of the tools you have in your toolbox (examples: breathing exercises, calling a friend, going for a walk, etc.) or create a physical toolbox with activities like a traditional song playlist, stress ball, written notes or photos.

★ Add one or two new tools/skills to your toolbox (examples: practicing gratitude, watching a funny movie, processing your feelings, reaching out to a crisis resource, listening to music, singing, drumming, dancing, etc.).

Reflection

The occasional bad day is to be expected, but when things that used to be easy become more difficult, something is going on. Recognizing when our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors have changed significantly is the first step to acknowledging when help is needed. If we are unable to change our physical circumstances, we can take care of ourselves by using our coping toolbox.

  • What tool/skill(s) did you add to your toolbox?
  • Did the new tool/skill(s) help you deal with any negative emotions during the week?
  • If so, in what ways did it help?

Fill out our survey below for a chance to win a prize. 

Create your own user feedback survey

Week 2, May 9-15: What factors protect our mental health

What we will learn:

  • What are risk and protective factors
  • How risk and protective factors play a role in protecting our mental health

Mental health conditions can develop slowly, or symptoms can appear suddenly after you have experienced a stressful event. Most mental health conditions do not have a single cause, and have different risk factors. A risk factor is any characteristic or exposure that increases an individual’s risk of negative outcomes.

Risk factors that can affect mental health are:

  • Difficult conditions, in which we live, learn, work and play.
  • Experiences that are highly stressful, shocking or dangerous causing trauma.
  • Use of substances such as drugs or alcohol that can cause a mental condition by affecting your mood, sleep, relationships and physical health.
  • Not getting enough high-quality sleep, choosing unhealthy food choices regularly, lack of exercise and poor stress management.

We also have protective factors that reduce risks while increasing overall health and well-being. An example of a protective factor is social support like our family, friends and Elders that share their knowledge.

Protective factors that can improve mental health are:

  • Generosity to share our traditional foods with an Elder.
  • Spirituality lifts our spirits and help us feel connected to something bigger than ourselves.
  • Participating in healthy activities such beading, art, hunting, berry picking, being in nature, drumming and dancing.

Activity: Re-energize with quality sleep

Sleep plays a role in our moods, ability to learn and make memories, organ health, immune system and other body functions like appetite, metabolism and hormone release. Quality sleep matters, not just how many hours we get.

Aim to:

★         Be asleep for 85% of the time you are in bed.

★         Fall asleep in under 30 minutes.

★         Wake up no more than once per night for no longer than 20 minutes.

★       Keep a sleep log noting your sleep habits.

Here are a few pointers on sleep hygiene that may be helpful. We can aim for the items listed, but often we do not accomplish them due to poor sleep hygiene.

  • If you do not fall asleep after 30 minutes, get out of bed until you feel sleepy.
  • Use your bed for sleep or intimate behavior only. Avoid watching television or using your computer or telephone in bed.
  • Develop a consistent nighttime routine such as turning off technology, brushing your teeth, putting on calming music, and doing some gentle stretches 20 minutes before bed.
  • Go to bed at about the same time every night.
  • If you experience insomnia, consider reaching out to a counselor for support. Treatment, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) use a counselor and client approach to identify problem solving skills, understanding one’s own pattern of thinking and behavior, and identifying strategies to cope with life’s challenges. CB can help and relatively quickly!

Reflection

Like any health condition, knowing the risk factors can help you address symptoms early on. Using our protective factors or strengths can balance out an existing risk factor. Positive habits such as making sure we get quality sleep supports mental wellness and positively impacts our overall physical and mental health.

  • Keep track of your sleeping habits during the week.
  • What did you notice about your sleeping habits?
  • Did you make adjustments?
  • What adjustments did you make, and did they help your mental and physical health? 

Fill out our survey below for a chance to win a prize. 

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MHAM22WK2

Week 1, May 2-8: Starting to think about mental health – Focus on Food & Nutrition

What we will learn:

  • Factors that help build our mental health wellness
  • Eating Traditional Foods helps us grow mentally healthy and strong

Taking care of yourself is critical to increasing mental health and preventing poor mental health. Factors contributing to good mental health are nutrition, sleep, coping skills, support systems and more. Thinking about how we build mental health wellness is the first step to getting back to the basics.

Activity: Eat quality foods 

The quality of food we eat impacts our overall mental health. Eating nutritious traditional foods contributes to keeping your body, spirit and mind healthy. Traditional foods have nutrients like Vitamins B, D and Omega-3 fats that play important roles in brain function and immunity.

  • Vitamin B helps regulate brain chemicals and support immune health. Traditional foods high in Vitamin B are herring eggs, salmon, reindeer, whale meat and blubber and moose. Non-traditional foods high in Vitamin B are poultry, eggs, spinach, kale, fruits, nuts, beans and whole grains.
  • Vitamin D is important for supporting mental health and immunity. Wintertime in Alaska can limit our natural Vitamin D source, sunshine! So it is important to gather traditional foods that offer Vitamin D like salmon, whale meat and blubber and seal oil. Non-traditional food sources that are high in Vitamin D include fortified milk, orange juice and breakfast cereals.
  • Omega-3 is a type of fat also essential to brain health by reducing inflammation and risk of heart disease. Traditional foods high in Omega-3 are salmon and trout. Non-traditional foods high in Omega-3 are mackerel, anchovies, sardines, walnuts or flax (or flaxseed oil), olive oil, fresh basil and dark green leafy vegetables.

Aim to:

            Incorporate foods rich in Vitamin B and Vitamin D into your diet.

★            Eat foods rich in Omega-3 fats two to three times per week as recommended by experts.

Reflection

Positive habits such as eating traditional foods support mental wellness and positively impact our overall health.

  • Keep track of your foods, exercise, thoughts and feelings during the week.
    • BHWC Thought Record
  • Did you incorporate nutritious foods high in Vitamin B, Vitamin D and Omega-3 fats? 
  • Did you notice a difference in your mental and physical health, and if so, what did you notice?

Fill out our survey below for a chance to win a prize! 

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MHAM22WK1


Resources

Feeling stressed? Out of balance? Changes in thoughts and behaviors? Resources are available to help you assess your mental health, increase your well-being and practice mindfulness.

The ANTHC Behavioral Health Wellness Clinic offers telehealth counseling, assessments and referral support to adult beneficiaries anywhere in Alaska. You can access our care from your personal cell phone or computer. To learn more or become a client, visit www.anthc.org/bhwc or call (907) 729-2492 Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

24/7 Alaska Statewide Careline 1-877-266-HELP (4357) or text 4HELP to 839863

If you or someone you know are experiencing a mental health crisis or just need someone to talk to, please call the Alaska Statewide Careline at 1-877-266-HELP (4357) 24/7, or text 4HELP to 839863.