May is Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Ann Luban, Senior Director, Jewish Community Services

“Be aware of how you treat others. You don’t always know their struggles and how hard they work each day to overcome them. It’s not easy. I struggle every day, but don’t stop working hard.”

A teen in our local community recently shared these words on social media.  She is not alone.  Even before our current crisis, NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) reported that 1 in 5 adults and 1 in 6 youth struggle with mental health challenges each year, and now we are all experiencing prolonged changes to our daily lives due to the pandemic that has heightened our emotions and compounded our worries.

While there are no magic wands we can wave, there are some strategies we can employ to help ourselves and that we can share with our family and friends.

  • We all have some days that are harder than others. Be kind and forgiving to yourself. Extend this kindness and forgiveness to others.  
  • Connect with others, whether by phone, video chat, text or getting together at the appropriate physical distance. Human beings are social beings. Who can you reach out to today?
  • Limit your exposure to news sources to no more than once or twice a day at most, preferably in the morning and not just before bed.
  • Focus on being engaged in the here and now. Ask yourself “What is the next thing I should do?” Eat a healthy snack? Take a shower? Go for a walk? Call a friend?
  • Express yourself and your feelings through art, music, writing (in a journal or doodling on a blank page) or dance or sway while listening to music.
  • Get some fresh air and some sun. Open the windows in your home or apartment, or, if you can, go outside.
  • Indoors or out, move your body. Stretch, walk, go for a run or bike ride, follow along with an exercise video – we all need to maintain activity for both physical and mental health.
  • Remember the importance of sleep and drinking enough water. Even though our schedules may have shifted, we need to re-establish sleep routines. Use a mindfulness app to help with increasing relaxation during the day and/or just before bed. Drink water (hot, cold or room temperature) throughout the day.
  • If you are currently in treatment for a physical or mental health condition, maintain your current plan, and do not change medication or alter your dosage without approval from your doctor. 
  • Join a support group.  JCFS is one of many organizations offering online support groups.

For additional support, JCFS Chicago's warm line provides assistance for people whose need is not urgent and just looking to talk to someone about their emotional distress. Our emotional support professionals are available 9am-5pm Monday through Thursday and 9am-4pm on Friday at 855.275.5237.  Additional mental health resources are also accessible at JCFS and at No Shame On U.

It is also critically important that we all know the warning signs that someone may be in more imminent need of help.  If you notice any of these in yourself or others, don’t wait to act.  Call 800.273.8255 24 hours day, 7 days a week.  Or text 741741. Or call 911.  Your actions might save a life. 

  • Talking about or making plans for suicide
  • Expressing hopelessness about the future
  • Displaying severe or overwhelming emotional pain or distress
  • Markedly different behavior, including social withdrawal and significant changes in sleep patterns.
  • Increased irritability, anger or hostility

As we observe Mental Health Awareness month this May, and as we move into summer and beyond, let’s all reach out when we need help, check in on family and friends, and help those who are struggling to find the help that they need. 

JFCS also provides mental health education and prevention programming for synagogues, schools, camps, and community organizations.  For more information and/or to schedule a program, please contact Diane Halivni at 847.745.5459.