Saint Luke’s is highlighting the Tools 2 Thrive initiative this May for Mental Health Month. It promotes ways individuals can prioritize their mental health, recover from trauma and obstacles, support those who need help, and work towards a path of stability.

Everyone faces challenges in life that impact their mental health, and the period we’re living in during COVID-19 with social distancing and quarantine is a challenge in itself. One in five people will experience a mental illness during their lifetime ̶ the good news is that there are practical tools you can use to help yourself or someone you know recover.

“We are seeing a meaningful increase in acuity in patients with anxiety disorders and in individuals with mood disorders such as Major Depressive Disorder,” said Norman Heisler, MD, psychiatrist and behavioral health division board chair of Saint Luke’s Health System. “The isolation from friends, family, and co-workers can be a significant source of stress and contribute to loneliness, anxiety, and depressed mood.”

One of the easiest tools anyone can use is taking a mental health screening. It’s a quick, free, and private way to assess mental health and recognize the signs of mental health problems.

When it comes to your feelings, it can be easy to get caught up in your emotions. Most people don’t think about what emotions they are dealing with, but taking the time to really identify what you’re feeling can help you better cope with challenging situations. It’s okay to feel. We also know that at some point in our lives we will experience loss whether it’s the loss of a relationship, a job, a home, or a loved one. Going through a grieving process is natural. We can help ourselves recover by finding ways to remember the good things about what we’ve lost.

“Grief is a normative response to loss and with any loss the support of family, friends and loved ones is invaluable,” said Dr. Heisler. “It is a painful emotion, however, it is not generally associated with an ongoing or persistent impairment in functioning. In the event that loss is associated with meaningful and persistent impairments in terms of one’s capacity perform ordinary life activities, it is important to seek professional help.”

Connections and the people around us can also help our mental health, although it can hurt it too. It’s important to make connections with other people who help enrich our lives and get us through tough times, but it’s equally important to recognize when certain people and situations in life can trigger us to feel bad or engage in destructive behaviors.

Identifying the toxic influences in our lives and taking steps to create a new life without them can improve mental and physical health over time. We know that working, paying bills, cleaning, getting enough sleep, and taking care of family members are just some of the things we do every day that can get overwhelming. By creating routines, we can organize our days in a way that these tasks become a pattern that makes it easier to get things done.

“We are inherently social beings. We seek out others with common values. We gain strength from others and provide support to those around us,” Dr. Heisler said. “Our lives are enriched by those around us, so finding ways to remain connected to others during this time is invaluable and we are fortunate to live in a time in which technology provides a platform to both stay connected and stay safe.”

For each of us, the tools we use to keep us mentally healthy will be unique. Saint Luke’s wants everyone to know that mental illnesses are real and recovery is possible. Finding what works for you may not be easy, but can be achieved by gradually making small changes and building on those successes. By developing your own Tools 2 Thrive, you can find balance between work, play, ups and downs, and mental and physical health to set yourself on the path to recovery.

“I think it is a rich resource that we all can connect with at so many levels. Tools 2 Thrive provides not only facts and data about emotional well-being and mental health but it also provides accessible and actionable tools, advice and techniques that allow us to understand and best cope with our complex emotional lives. It is a wealth of information and a guide to wellness. I would encourage others to download the T2T Outreach Tool Kit and use it as an ongoing resource.”

Saint Luke’s has numerous options available to address mental health concerns, including virtual appointments, to help provide support if you are struggling. Find out more about Saint Luke’s Behavioral Health Specialists.