Summer 2014: Mental Health

As promised, I am providing you with some ideas that have been generated by the wonderful participants in my mental health workshop. The following lists were generated at Rend Lake College, but they reflect the findings of other groups with whom I have had the privilege of working.

To begin, I divided participants into three groups. Each group formulated responses to one question.

1. What can mentally healthy people do?

2. What contributes to our mental health?

3. What harms our mental health?

In an inclusive way, we discussed how the answers to these questions apply equally well to children and adults with disabilities and children and adults with no identified disability. This is an important tenant of my approach to inclusion: ALL people are people. Disabilities do not define the person. The disability label is one guide to help us help children and adults reach their potential and have a high quality of life.

Check out this material and then discuss with staff, families and teams: Are we doing everything we can to promote the mental health of the children and adults we support? Are we doing anything that could harm mental health that we need to change? Are we systematically teaching the skills needed to be a mentally health person? We couldnot list every element in each group, so what do YOU think needs to be added?

What can mentally healthy people do (most of the time)?

  • Hold a successful job in the community, towns, neighborhoods
  • Take care of household situations such as the finances, and keeping the family happy
  • Get adequate rest
  • Use thinking strategies to reduce anxiety
  • Take care of oneself; eating, bathing, personal hygiene
  • Identify and express needs
  • Know when help is needed and get the help that is needed
  • Feel good about achievements
  • Interpret, observe, receive information or feedback appropriately
  • Help others
  • Have good coping skills
  • Role play to experience other perspectives
  • Try new things
  • Identify the problem, find a method to resolve it, step back and evaluate before taking action
  • Predict the possible consequences of each choice
  • Accept the fact that failure is OK
  • Listen to music or meditate, do enjoyable, calming activities
  • Exercise or do high intensity activity
  • Find the humor in life, in self and in others
  • Journal, write things down, reflect
  • Think in "shades of gray"    
  • Seek counseling and support when needed     

What can we do to support the development of mental health inourselves and others?

  • Be prepared for many different situations
  • Promote and support positive behavior
  • Support other’s decisions
  • Pay attention to verbal and non verbal communicative signals
  • Help people be a part of a community
  • Get to know each individual as a unique person
  • Observe others needs and respond with kindness
  • Demonstrate compassion
  • Be an EXAMPLE of what TO DO
  • Educate yourself; build awareness of the mental health needs of others
  • Listen to the problem with an open mind
  • Compliment others Recognize and celebrate successes, even those that might seem “small” to others
  • Recognize that every individual has their own habits and perspectives and RESPECT them
  • Remember that things that may not be important to you might be very important to others and respond accordingly.


What can harm our mental health?

  • Lack of family support
  • Negative personal history
  • Previous traumas that have not been properly addressed and treated
  • Self-medicating with alcohol or illegal drugs
  • Living up to a “bad” reputation
  • People talking about us in front of us as if we are not there
  • Humiliation and being humiliated
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of sleep
  • Family members lack of well being
  • Non-compliance with medical needs
  • Negative peer environment
  • Bullying
  • Embarrassment
  • Influence of people who lack compassion and kindness
  • Overly concerned about how others view self
  • Lack of validation
  • Being often confused
  • Feeling defective or broken
  • Feeling helpless
  • Feeling unloved or unliked
  • Lack of acceptance
  • Believing that things cannot get better
  • Social withdrawal, lack of social relationships
  • Feeling like a helpless bystander
  • Misuse of Facebook/social media to do harm
  • Financial burdens and concerns
  • Unrealistic work load
  • Becoming unemployed or long term unemployment
  • Having a stigma connected with you or your disability
  • Not having your concerns validated
  • Staff turn-over, including suddenly losing important people in your life who understand and like you
  • Concerns about world Events
  • Unexpected life Changes, out of our control like accidents, or death of loved ones
  • Intense or long term illness in self or loved ones
  • Insufficient Educational Level
  • Issues resulting from genetics