May is Mental Health Awareness Month and we are kicking it off with a brilliant episode featuring clinical child and adolescent psychologist, Dr. Brittany Mathews. This episode highlights the importance of mental health as a critical part of our overall wellbeing and why it is imperative we pay attention to it. Gold Ivy explores how lifestyle and self-care play into their mental health and asks Dr. Mathews a multitude of questions that are on all our minds. Dr. Mathews discusses the prevalence of mental health disorders, offers actionable steps for those struggling with their mental health, normalizes destructive thoughts, addresses suicidality, provides coping skills and techniques to benefit your mental health, and so much more.
Dr. Brittany Mathews
Dr. Brittany Mathews is a clinical child and adolescent psychologist. She received her doctorate in clinical psychology from Kent State University in Ohio, completed pre- and post-doctoral clinical training at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, MN, and is currently located in the Milwaukee, WI area. She has worked in a variety of settings including academic medical centers, community and university mental health centers, hospital-based programs, and pediatric primary care clinics. Her clinical and research interests include anxiety, depression, trauma, and disruptive behavior disorders in childhood and adolescence, and she has a particular passion for increasing access to mental health care for underserved communities.
***The information provided by Dr. Mathews in this podcast is based on her professional knowledge, training, and experience and is informed by the psychological literature base. Listening to this information does not indicate that a professional relationship has been established between the guest speaker and listener. The content here is for informational purposes only. Please consult your healthcare professional to discuss your own unique mental health questions and concerns.
Episode Highlights –
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices.
20% of adult population met criteria for a mental health diagnosis within a 12-month period; Young adults (ages 18-25) have the highest prevalence of a mental health disorder. Of that 20% of the population with a mental health disorder, only about half received mental health treatment.
Mental health permeates every aspect of a person’s life. Mental health diagnoses are prevalent, and an even greater number of people experience subthreshold mental health symptoms, meaning they don’t quite rise to the level of meeting the diagnostic criteria. If a person does not acknowledge and invest in their own mental health, their emotional, psychological, social and even physical well-being may be negatively impacted.
How to recognize your mental health is suffering?
Pay attention to symptoms that you may be having and consider whether or not these symptoms are interfering with your daily life.
Symptoms to look out for:
- Feeling a little down
- Feeling more irritable than usual
- Worrying more
- Feeling more anxious or on edge
- Some trouble sleeping
- Some changes in appetite
- Generally able to still do the things you normally do, despite experiencing mild psychological
- Difficulty sleeping
- Appetite changes that result in unwanted weight changes
- Struggling to get out of bed in the morning because of mood
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of interest in things you usually find enjoyable
- Unable to perform usual daily functions and responsibilities
- Thoughts of death or self-harm
If you’re experiencing mild symptoms but continue to function at the level that you normally do, consider engaging in increased self-care to address your mental health. If you’re experiencing severe symptoms or you’ve been experiencing symptoms for 2 weeks or more that are causing you a lot of distress or interfering with your daily life, talk to your healthcare provider about treatment options. If you’re experiencing thoughts of self-harm, talk with someone about it immediately. Contact the suicide prevention lifeline, talk with a supportive loved one, talk with a healthcare provider, etc.
TALK TO SOMEONE and know that there are excellent tools and treatments to address suicidal ideation and mental health problems.
Actionable steps to take if you’re looking to improve your mental health?
- Eat healthy
- Practice good sleep hygiene; Get adequate sleep on a regular sleep schedule
- Exercise (e.g., aerobics, yoga)
- Schedule pleasant activities
- Engage in social contact
- Practice mindfulness, meditation, and/or relaxation (diaphragmatic breathing, progressive
- muscle relaxation, imagery)
- Talk to a trusted friend or family member
Seek professional help:
- Guided by the most up-to-date research, directed by client goals, informed by clinician’s expertise, and progress should be monitored on an ongoing basis
- Evidence-based psychotherapy (talk therapy)
- Examples: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Best ways to support someone around you who is suffering with their mental health?
- Talk with them; ask them how they are really doing.
- Express your love and support
- Ask them how they would like to be supported
- Encourage them to seek professional mental health care
If you’re concerned that someone may be thinking of hurting themselves, it is especially important that you talk to them about it. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for individuals under the age of 35, and thoughts of self harm occur for many people, even if they never act on those thoughts.
Research shows that if you talk with someone about suicide, it may reduce rather than increase suicidal thoughts. There are effective strategies and treatments for suicidal thoughts and behaviors, as well as the mental health diagnoses that may be associated with suicidal thoughts.
ASK: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question, but studies show that asking at-risk individuals if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts, and if you directly ask you’re more likely to get a direct answer.
KEEP THEM SAFE: Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.
BE THERE: Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Research suggests acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce rather than increase suicidal thoughts.
HELP THEM CONNECT: Save the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s (1-800-273-TALK (8255)) and the Crisis Text Line’s number (741741) in your phone, so it’s there when you need it. You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional.
STAY CONNECTED: Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person.
Mental health & Covid-19
Multiple sources of stress since the COVID-19 pandemic began
- Anxiety about the virus
- Job loss
- Financial instability
- Social isolation
- Parents who are juggling work and their children (e.g., daycare closures, virtual school)
- Racial injustice and unrest
APA Pandemic Stress Survey 6 – Report on 3/11/21
- Increased stress and generally poor coping
- Increased weight gain (42% of adults reported undesired weight gain with an average of+29 lbs)
- Increased alcohol use (23% of adults reported increased alcohol use to cope with stress)
- More sleep problems (67% of adults reported sleeping more or less than they wanted)
- More self-reported problems with mental health
- Gen Z adults (18-25) reported the highest level of stress of all the generations
General take away, the past year has been incredibly, unspeakably hard for so many people. If you are struggling, know that you are not alone. Take care of yourself. Seek help if you need it.
–Dr. Brittany Mathews
Tune in for a conversation that will leave you feeling more equipped as you navigate the inevitable and difficult conversations with yourself and/or those who are struggling with their mental health.
3 Gold Stars
1. Develop healthy daily habits; what we have traditionally thought of as healthy habits to take care of
our physical health are also beneficial for our brain and mental well-being
- Sleep hygiene
- Eat regularly scheduled, healthy meals
- Exercise; move your body daily
2. Schedule pleasant activities
- Each day plan to do at least 1 activity that you enjoy to provide an opportunity for the experience of positive emotions
- Be specific – decide what you will do, when, for how long, and with whom
- Keep track of how doing pleasant activities makes you feel and affects your mood, thoughts, and behavior
3. Don’t hesitate to talk with your healthcare provider about mental health concerns
- Talk with your PCP
- Request a consult with an integrated behavioral health provider
- And/or a referral to a mental health provider
- On a scale from 1-10 rate your mental health right now. 1 being could use some support, 10 being feeling great. Based on your number, what steps can you take to increase it?
- Who is your support team? How can you leverage them even more for support? If you could use more support, who could you turn to?
- Schedule one act of self-care into your week that will positively impact your mental health. Get specific- what does that look like for you? What day and time will you schedule it for?
Piece of Gold
Healing Food of the Week-
Chia seeds offer all nine essential amino acids so qualify as a high-quality plant-based protein and are high in manganese, phosphorus, copper, selenium, iron, magnesium, and calcium.
Healing Properties: They are the best known plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds help with digestive health, improve the health of your heart, and reduce risk factors for diabetes.
Fun Fact: Chia is native to Mexico and Guatemala and the word “chia” is the ancient Mayan word for “strength.”
Recipes you need to try!
Mixed Berry Protein Chia Pudding
Chia Banana Bread Energy Bites
- Crisis Text Line: 741-741
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- American Psychological Association (APA) Help Center- https://www.apa.org/helpcenter
- National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)- https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/find-help/index.shtml
- One Mind PsyberGuide- https://onemindpsyberguide.org/
We thank you for joining us in the fearless pursuit of self-discovery and growth and hope that you transform our lessons into your gold.
Listen to your truth and go chase your gold.
– Gold Ivy Health Co.