May is Mental Health Awareness Month

A message from APTS Alexandria Campus Counselor, Liz Simms:

Happy Mental Health Awareness Month!

While 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness during their lifetime, everyone faces challenges in life that impact their mental well-being. Particularly now during these strenuous and unprecedented times. As such I’d like to focus this message around mental well-being and Covid-19. 

Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of bad information floating around on the internet about “how to cope during a pandemic” and motivational pressure. Motivational pressure such as, “if you don’t come out of this quarantine with a new skill, a new language, or more knowledge you didn’t ever lack time, you lacked discipline”. On its face, this may sound logical. More time equals more opportunity, right? Just one thing though – there happens to be a deadly global pandemic and massive economic crisis happening, which might just be the tiniest bit distracting right now. 

As a counselor I am horrified and bewildered how people can spread these phrases in good conscience. Humanity is going through a collective trauma.  One that is bringing up profound grief, loss, panic over livelihoods, panic over loss of lives of loved ones, anxiety over job loss, and a complete displacing of routine and normalcy. People’s nervous systems are struggling to cope with the sense of threat and vigilance for safety or alternating with feeling numb, frozen and shutting down in response to it all. People are trying to survive poverty, fear, financial hardship, food sacristy, isolation, loneliness, retriggering of trauma, and retriggering of other mental health difficulties.

What we need is more self-compassion, more gentle acceptance of all the difficult emotions coming up for us now, more focus on gentle ways to soothe ourselves, more evidence-based strategies for regulation. Not a motivational guilt trip by strangers. Thanks but no thanks Twitter. 

Mental Health America has released their 2020 Toolkit for the year. This year the toolkit includes tips (via handouts) on owning your feelings, finding the positive, eliminating toxic influences, creating healthy routines, supporting others, and connecting with others. I have attached the full toolkit and each handout individually; incase you find that only 1 or 2 apply to you.

In an age where “Googling” is a verb, please make sure to seek out evidence-based, scientifically validated information, tips, and strategies for your mental well-being from accredited organizations. Avoid blog and opiniated portals such as “Liz’s Lifestyle Blog”. Some of the organizations and associations I seek information from are: The National Institute of Mental Health, National Alliance on Mental Illness, The Center For Disease Control, Mental Health America, National Association of School Counselors, and America Counseling Association.

In conclusion. Breathe. Let’s be grateful for what we have, practice mindfulness in the present, and spread hope for the future. Take care of yourselves, your families and your communities. We will get through this.



View the “Tools 2 Thrive Outreach Toolkit” below:

Download (PDF)