Let’s Talk About It! What Does Mental Health Mean to You?

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us took a hard look at ourselves, our lives, our habits, and how we care for ourselves and each other. These past couple years have shown us how crucial caring for our mental health can be.

The children we serve are navigating one of the most difficult times of their lives while in foster care. Up to 80% of children in foster care face significant mental health issues, compared to about 18 to 22% of the general population. As advocates for these children, it’s crucial to destigmatize mental health! We need to have open and more frequent conversations. We need to let the children we serve know that what they are feeling is important and that their mental health matters.

At Texas CASA, we decided to take the first step and asked our staff: What does mental health mean to you?

Kara Hobbs, Chief Social Impact Officer

To me, mental health means quality of life. A balanced and fulfilled sense of self. Awareness of your personal mental and emotional needs and the ability to live in a way that meets them.

Emma Ledford, Communications Specialist

Just like my physical health, my mental health is an ongoing journey. I can think back to a couple core moments in my life when I took major steps for my mental health. For me, this has meant therapy and medication, along with opening up to friends and family. Prioritizing my mental health can be hard work at times, but it’s so worth it!

Benita Pekkattil, Community Engagement Specialist

Mental Health means quality of life to me. When we haven’t addressed past trauma, we might tend to live an empty life filled with pain and anger. Years pass by and there seems to be no meaning or purpose. True living starts when we address our trauma, learn from it and work on healing. Our lives become fulfilling, purposeful and beautiful.

Abe Louise Young, Communications Director

I come from a family genetic line with lots of mental illnesses, from garden-variety anxiety to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. At the same time, all of my family members are bright, creative and unique humans. I’ve learned the crucial importance of speaking publicly about mental health, destigmatizing one’s story, fighting past shame and claiming all life experience as valuable. I’ve also learned of the incredible need for more widespread funding for mental health services. I dream of a day when psychiatric medication and supportive therapy are universally free and available, so that everyone can be well enough to contribute their gifts to our world.

Sarah Ritch, Learning and Education Specialist

Mental health is an integral part of my health. While I’m not aware of it as frequently as my physical health, I’ve found it’s just as important to my overall wellbeing.

Sarah Crockett, Director of Public Policy

My mental health is a core component of my physical health—if I’m stressed or anxious, I experience physical symptoms and, in many ways, I think of my mental health as almost more important than my physical health. If I’m in a positive frame of mind, I get better sleep and I’m more motivated to eat healthy foods and exercise. It’s so important to actively advocate for your mental health with your doctor and your employer. Doing so not only improves your well-being but can also make it easier for someone else who may be afraid to talk about their mental health in those spaces.

We hope this inspires you to be open and take good care of your mental health, so that you can best advocate for the mental health of the children and families you serve. Step by step, conversation by conversation, we can change how we view and speak about mental health.

Think you may be struggling with a mental health issue? Take advantage of Mental Health America’s free screening tool.