Between the pandemic, the Olympics, and everything in between, it seems mental health is one of the biggest topics of discussion these days. But what exactly do we mean when we talk about mental health?

During the years I prepared for my career, I spent a lot of time in lecture halls and classrooms listening to professors present long-winded definitions full of complicated words and puzzling concepts. Oddly enough, few of them used the same words or mentioned the same concepts. When the experts can’t agree, it’s easy to see why every day people become confused or intimidated by the idea of mental health and counseling.

The more time I spend counseling those every day people, the more I’ve come to appreciate simple definitions. And while some of my professors might object to my simple description of mental health, I believe it’s on target and describes how the team at Care to Change thinks about the subject.

We see life as a miracle, as a gift that should fill each of us with joy. We believe every person has purpose. We want you to greet every morning with eager expectation and to end each evening with thoughts of gratitude and contentment.

We also know the reality is that life isn’t all sunshine and roses. No one is immune is pain and suffering and we all face a variety of trials and challenges. Each day, we’re presented with situations that could lead to a wide range of outcomes, and how we react and respond has profound effects on how we feel and respond.

Mental health is the state of well-being, the ability to heal from pain and safely cope with stresses that life brings. It’s the ability to work productively and experience joy in the midst of life’s most difficult challenges. It’s not that you can’t be sad, or angry, or anxious. Those are normal and common human emotions. Mental health means those emotions don’t control your responses. They don’t take over your life, keep you from doing what you love, or make you dread what you face every day.

Having “mental health” means being able to have difficult conversations without compromising who you are and what’s important to you. It involves knowing that you have inherent worth and value as a person. It means grasping that you can love others and are worthy of receiving their love in return. It centers upon understanding that your life has a purpose and living in harmony with that purpose.

In this edition of our newsletter, we’ll explore some of the questions we hear most often, and we’ll do our best to answer them in straightforward, easy-to-understand ways. We hope our answers encourage you, and if after reading them, you want to take steps to improve your mental health or that of a loved one, we encourage you to contact us.

April Bordeau is the Director of Care to Change. A licensed clinical social worker, she has focused on helping children and families overcome challenges in their lives for over 25 years.

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