GRADES 6-8

Taking Care of Our Mental Health Means...

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STRENGTHENING OUR

MINDS

FINDING OUR SUPPORT

KNOWING HOW WE FEEL

What is Mental Health?

EVERYONE has mental health, the same way EVERYONE has physical health.

The brain is a part of the body, which means, just like our muscles and bones, we can take care of and strengthen our brains.

If someone has strong mental health, they are able to feel good and respond to their emotions and stress in healthy ways. Our mental health affects the way we think, feel, and act. It also influences how we handle stress, connect to one another, and make decisions. Mental health looks different depending on who we are and what we are going though.

Mental health is important to take care of because it impacts every part of our lives. No matter who you are, or what you have experienced, there are things that you can do to strengthen your mental health!

What You Need To Know

 

1. You deserve to feel well.

2. You deserve to be safe.

 

3. You know your mental health better than anyone else.

Mental Health
Equity

Your identity and background can affect your mental health, and even your access to mental health services. Your race, gender, economic status, and where you live all play a part in health and wellness. 

We're all different, and that's okay! Our differences make us strong, but it's important to remember that everyone has their own mental health journey and wellness support needs.

What can affect mental health?

  • Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) - ACE's are potentially traumatic events that occur before the age of 18. These events can have a lasting impact on mental and physical health and development.

  • Socioeconomic Status (SES) - Your SES is made up of your household income, the education level of your parent/guardian, and the type of job your parent/guardian has. Young people who live in a low income household and/or have fewer opportunities may experience greater amounts of stress, which can impact mental health.  

  • Implicit Bias and Cultural Competence - Implicit biases are the attitudes, beliefs, and stereotypes that affect how we think about and behave toward others without even knowing it. Everyone has implicit biases--no matter their background or how old they are. Implicit bias can really affect the way you are treated and/or the way you treat others, and that can have a big impact on mental health. That's why it's important to have Cultural Competence. Becoming Culturally Competent means working to understand, appreciate and interact with people from cultures, backgrounds, or belief systems different from your own. 

What Does it Mean to Feel Well?

Feeling mentally well is different for everyone depending on who we are, and where we are in life. Generally, mental wellness means being able to notice and respond to our emotions and stress in healthy ways and taking care of our minds. Check out some words from our friends below about mental wellness.

Wellness Tips and Stories from Mental Health Ambassadors

There are many things that we can do to stay well, and strengthen our mental health. Often, these things are personal and it takes time for us to figure out what works best.

Mental Health Ambassadors:

are people who are passionate about mental health and sharing their stories with others to make mental health a part of our every day conversation. Click through these slides to hear what some amazing Mental Health Ambassadors are personally doing to feel better and to stay well.

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General Tips & Tricks

While we love personal (human) stories, there are also some generally wellness strategies that often benefit every living being. These things help us to take care of our mental and physical health. We've asked two of our cutest Ambassadors to share those tips and tricks with you.

Gus's Wellness Guide

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Copper's Wellness Guide

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How can you take care of your mental health?

Here are a couple tips:

  1. Social & Community Support - Support from family, friends, and community members can improve self-awareness, confidence, and mental health

  2. Community Engagement - Getting involved in your community can help you build stronger connections and help you understand what resources you can turn to whenever you are struggling. 

Just like with physical health, there are times when we may need more support with our mental health. 1 in 5 youth and young adults lives with a mental health condition (a condition that affects a person's thinking, feeling, behavior or mood) - that is 20%! And, it is normal to need or want more support with mental health, especially when we experience stress - and, we ALL experience stress.

 

If you, or someone you know is not feeling well, there are things that can be done, and you are never alone even if it may feel like it sometimes.

What Does it Mean to Need or Want More Support?

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Signs You or Someone You Know

May Need More Support

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these signs, or others,

in a way that feels stressful or scary, talk to someone you trust. 

How is the Covid-19 Pandemic
Affecting Mental Health?

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The Covid-19 Pandemic has been a hard time for many people. Lots of young people struggled with their mental health during the height of the pandemic, and are still struggling today. Stay-at-home orders meant seeing fewer people, and the isolation impacted a lot of people's mental health. For a lot of young people, sheltering at home also meant unusual sleeping patterns (sleeping too much or not enough), and spending more time using screens for school, both of which can affect your mental wellness. If you think the pandemic may have been tough on your mental health--you are not alone. 44% of kids in Chicago have experienced an increase in at least one mental or behavioral health symptom during the pandemic. But don't worry--help is out there. It’s okay to ask for help when you’re not feeling your best.

Talking About Mental Health & Sharing Our Stories

Our mental health changes as we age, and sometimes we do not always feel our best, or we notice a friend is not feeling well. If you notice that you are not feeling okay, or you are worried about a friend, the best thing to do is to talk about it and to find support!

It can be hard to tell when it is the right time to ask for support. The truth is, there is no "right time"! It is always okay to ask for support. All of your emotions matter - the good ones and uncomfortable ones.  If someone tells you your feelings are not important or makes you feel ashamed, then that person is not the best person to support you on your mental health journey. That happens sometimes, and that is a sign to ask someone else who can support you!

We don't always talk about mental health or ask for support for it, and this is a BIG problem. In fact, even though  1 in 5 teens and young adults will need mental health support this year, only HALF of those people will get the help that they need.

Stigma is when someone is seen or treated in a negative way because of something about them. When we talk about mental health, this could be the belief that someone needs support is crazy, unstable, not whole, or other ideas like that.

Stigma is harmful, and it makes it hard to reach out or ask for help because of a fear of how others might treat you.

Jeremy's Story

Let's think about why stigma

is a big problem.

Can you imagine if I broke my leg? What would I do? I would go to the doctor.

There is no way that if I broke my leg, I would walk around on it or try to hide it or feel ashamed to ask for help - I would get a cast and probably start to feel much better.

We can get support for our mental health TOO. And when we do get support it makes it more likely that we will begin to feel better or learn tools and strategies to improve our wellness.

But, if stigma makes it harder to get support, it also makes it harder to feel better - because support is important for mental health. 

So What Can We do to Reduce Stigma?

One of the most important things to do to reduce stigma is to talk about mental health. If we make mental health a part of everyday conversation, over time it becomes easier to talk about for everyone. This means giving people the facts, being careful with our language (not calling people crazy/psycho/insane), and supporting the people around us with their mental health when they need us most.

We also think this means sharing our stories, and making space for people to share their stories with us. Above, one of our Ambassadors for mental health, Jeremy, would like to start the conversation about mental health by sharing his story with you.

The reason? Stigma.

What to do When You Don't Feel Your Best, or You Are Worried About a Friend...

Talk about it! Telling someone how you feel, or that you are worried about a friend, is brave and shows strength.  Starting the conversation opens the door to finding mental health support, building deeper relationships, and changing stigma.

Tell Someone.

Talk to someone who cares about you and respects you. If they care for you and respect you, they will care about your mental health and wellness.

When you tell someone how you feel, you may not get the response you want, but that’s not a reflection of your worth. If you don’t get the response you want from a friend or family member, go to your school social worker, counselor, or try another adult you trust. If you are not sure where to go, or you need help finding a safe adult, NAMI Chicago can help when you call our Helpline at 1-833-626-4244 (see more about the Helpline below).

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Use this tool to figure out who in your life you could go to if you needed support - it is okay if the page is not full, that means there is an opportunity to create new connections.

Call the NAMI Chicago Helpline

NAMI Chicago has a Helpline that runs 7 days a week.

 

Monday - Friday, 9AM - 8PM

Saturday & Sunday, 9AM - 5PM

1-833-626-4244

 

When you call us, you’ll always be connected to a real person. You can let us know what’s going on, and we can help you find ways to get through it.

Learn.

Researching more about mental health and mental health conditions might give you insight into your experiences and help you advocate for what you need. You don’t need to be a doctor to learn more about mental health conditions. Get started by following these links.

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Advocate.

You can stand up for yourself and your friends by starting a conversation about mental health.  Not everybody has the right answers all the time--that’s why it’s important that you start the conversation when you feel like you can. There are lots of different ways to start the conversation.

Get Inspired!

Mental health experiences can be expressed in a lot of different ways--including on social media. The next time you’re thinking of getting lost on the internet, look for people who are starting a conversation about mental health.

@namichicago