“I’m trying to help her… I’m trying to keep them safe.” Those were the words of the beleaguered sister of Ebony Wilkerson, captured on a 911 recording, just two hours before Ebony drove herself and three children into the Atlantic Ocean. These types of cases activate our impulse to blame and assign responsibility. There is a place for that conversation, but it does little to arm you with the skills or awareness to address real-life problems. What many of these cases DO offer is an opportunity to learn how our individual actions can help the Ebonys of the world.
Certainly, mental health symptoms can be quite difficult to assess and communicate. How do you know if someone is really hearing voices or if they’re just deep in their faith? There are no home test kits that can calculate, describe or predict symptoms. What you can do is trust your instincts and knowledge about your loved one and learn basic information like Mental Health First Aid.
As defined by Mental Health First Aid USA, “Mental Health First Aid is an in-person training designed for anyone to learn about mental illnesses, including risk factors and warning signs. Similar to CPR, participants learn a 5-step action plan to help people who are in emotional crisis.” In addition to increasing your knowledge, evaluating your own willingness to deal with mental illness is necessary. Too often, those in need of mental health services do not receive help until it’s too late due to family members’ reluctance to deal with the situation. Many atrocities can be attributed to long-term emotional wear and tear without adequate coping skills or support.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Track gratitude and achievement with a journal. Include 3 things you were grateful for and 3 things you were able to accomplish each day.
Set up a getaway. It could be camping with friends or a trip to the tropics. The act of planning a vacation and having something to look forward to can boost your overall happiness for up to 8 weeks!
Work your strengths. Do something you’re good at to build self-confidence, then tackle a tougher task.
Experiment with a new recipe, write a poem, paint or try a Pinterest project. Creative expression and overall well-being are linked.
Boost brainpower by treating yourself to a couple pieces of dark chocolate every few days. The flavanoids, caffeine, and theobromine in chocolate are thought to work together to improve alertness and mental skills.
Focus on life now. Sometimes, we don’t need to add new activities to get more pleasure. We just need to soak up the joy in the ones we’ve already got. Trying to be optimistic doesn’t mean ignoring the uglier sides of life. It just means focusing on the positive as much as possible.