Though mental health should be treated as important as physical health, it often takes the backseat. It’s so common to think, “I can do all of my usual tasks and live my usual life with a bit of depression, but not with a broken leg.” The truth is, most of life’s obligations are made immeasurably more difficult when one’s mind and emotions aren’t well, than when a simple limb is out of place. But still, everyone knows someone – perhaps that someone is you – who delays tending to their mental health. The statistics are backing that up, too. According to the State of the Nation’s Mental Health Inaugural Report by Anthem, the pandemic disrupted regular mental health services in 93 percent of countries. The diagnosis for common mental and personality disorders dropped drastically – not because the existence of such disorders dropped, but because the access to mental health professionals did.
What’s more is that 68 percent of almost 3,400 clinics offering mental health and substance abuse services in low-income communities had to turn people away during the pandemic due to lack of funding and staff. While hopefully, our healthcare system and society at large can make some changes so that everybody who needs professional mental health treatment can access it, it’s so important to know what to do when you just can’t get that appointment. Or, even during stretches between appointments when you feel you need a little extra support. The amazing thing today is that, nearly everyone has access to some sort of support in their palm, pocket, or purse: it’s your smartphone. Here are mental health resources you can find right on your phone.
Mental health podcasts
Just like nearly any type of professional, therapists look for alternative ways besides their brick-and-mortar practice to get their name out there, and show the world what they’re capable of. Many of them do this through podcasts. While listening to a podcast episode isn’t the same as telling a therapist your specific circumstances and having her tailor advice to your life, if you find a therapist whose style you love and listen to enough of their podcasts, eventually, you’ll hear episodes to which you relate deeply. Sometimes, it can feel like it was written for you. And that’s just free, professional advice you can listen to while driving your car or out on a jog. If you aren’t sure where to start, check out the Therapy for Black Girls Podcast, the Fireflies Unite podcast, or the Naming It podcast. Each are hosted by mental health professionals and address issues that specifically affect the Black community.
Online support groups
Sometimes, it’s just nice to talk to other people who are going through the same thing you are. It’s common to think that you’re alone in your experiences, but when you get to chatting with others, there’s comfort in hearing just how “normal” your reactions are to certain situations. You don’t have to drive to a church or high school auditorium after hours to join an in-person support group in dusty folding chairs. There are online platforms like Circles Up that let you join an online support group, led by a therapist. You just answer a few questions to get matched with the right group and then pay $20 a week to join in on the discussions.
There’s no reason to get precious about how one consumes their information. You don’t have to sit down in one place and actually read a book to read a book. You’re busy. The pace of today’s world doesn’t allow for much sitting and reading. The thing is, while maybe you want to consume a romance or adventure novel in the old fashioned way – reading the text – when it comes to books that improve your life, such as mental health books, you just need to consume the information any way you can. Here are some times you can’t read a book, but you can listen to one: driving, walking around the city, waiting in line at the pharmacy, hiking, walking your dog, and riding your bike. If you think about it, there are so many times in your day you likely already listen to music. Replace that with an audio book on mental health. “The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health” is available to listen to on Amazon.
Physical wellness and mental wellness are closely tied together. Diet plays a role in depressive symptoms. Exercise can lift the mood. Struggling with chronic conditions brought on by a lack of exercise or poor diet makes it hard to do the things one loves that make them happy, ultimately affecting mental wellness. It’s all a part of the other. That’s why using wellness apps that help you better understand how to eat, give you tips on how to eat right, inspire you to exercise, offer guided workouts, provide virtual sessions with trainers, and even give insight from nutritionists, can be a valuable part of your mental wellness plan. The wellness app Blaque, designed for Black people, by Black people, is worth checking out. The company says, “Our app-driven coaching program is built by fitness and wellness professionals and provides a customized, interactive and focused approach on cultivating members’ optimal well-being.”
The pandemic transformed the way people do therapy, and perhaps finally forged the way for a platform where people who were hesitant to seek help finally can. If the idea of simply getting in your car/on the subway to go to an in-person appointment is so daunting that you always back out, virtual therapy apps are a Godsend. And there are many. BetterHelp and TalkSpace are great apps that offer individual and family therapy for a low cost. You can communicate with real therapists using your chosen method, whether that’s text, phone call, or video chat. Amwell is another excellent resource as it handles the frustrating task of finding a therapist within your insurance network.
Live social media events
Therapists are turning to social media just like everybody else to grow their following, and many host live events through Facebook Live or Instagram Live, during which they speak about mental health topics, but also address questions and comments from viewers. A good first step is finding a few mental health experts whose social media profiles you enjoy. If they post regular content that you find uplifts and assures you, give them a follow. Then, set up notifications so you know every time they make a new post, and so that your feed favors their content. That way, you should know when they schedule a live event and you can tune in.
Meditation can be a wonderful supplementary tool to your overall approach to mental wellness. Many individuals find meditation to be an excellent way to stop obsessive thoughts, ease anxiety, and promote calmness, particularly in between therapy sessions, when they have to battle difficult moments on their own. Research has proven that breathing exercises can minimize the body’s stress response, and the beauty of that is that breath work is always available to you. All you need is you. That being said, if you aren’t sure how to get into it, we’ve listed some great meditation apps here that are either free or just a couple of dollars. They offer thousands of guided meditations, many of which can be filtered to cater to your specific needs.