As we close out Mental Health Awareness Month, take a minute to find out what’s going on in your community all year long. The more we know, the more we can speak out for mental health services – for every person in every community.
There are some inspiring things happening in communities, I’m here to report.
After America’s second-deadliest school shooting in Uvalde, TX this week, teachers all over the country had to have agonizing conversations with students of all ages. It's heart-wrenching. And I wondered about support in schools for students’ mental health outside crises. In Sheboygan, WI, United Way of Sheboygan County’s PATH (Providing Access to Healing) program puts licensed professional clinicians in schools to provide mental health care for students. And it’s making a difference. Last school year, 62% of participating students improved school performance and behaviors, 84% reported a more positive outlook on life, 78% reported improved relationships, and 97% reported feeling better understood.
It's not just young people who need mental health support. United Way Centraide Canada offers a seniors’ yoga program where 72-year-old resident, Seeta has the opportunity to not only relieve pain and stay fit, but lift her spirits and connect with her peers and community. During COVID-19, United Way of the Netherlands created an initiative that uses refurbished tablets to connect isolated seniors in Dutch care centers with refugees who want to learn Dutch and bond with their new community. This successful program is now being replicated in Spain and across Europe.
Trauma and isolation clearly impact mental health. But so does nutrition. Students without access to reliable food often bring stress and anxiety into the classroom. Kids who are hungry can’t learn. And research shows that food insecurity – not knowing where or when the next meal will come – is a factor in maternal depression.
In fact, our brains are closely connected to our GI tract, experts say. Our gut is home to billions of bacteria. If we eat better, we’ll produce more “good bacteria,” which will positively affect our mood. That’s why programs supporting access to nutritious food are also supporting mental health, including these:
- United Way of Bengaluru works through local mother’s groups to share nutritional information and healthy food habits that moms can bring home to their families. Learn more here.
- United Way of Central Iowa brings fresh and healthy food to Iowan communities through supporting Operation: Fresh Produce Drop, which provided 3+ million pounds of fresh, healthy food to 125+ local organizations.
- United Way Worldwide’s Ride United: Last Mile Delivery program has provided more than 11 million meals across the U.S. since it started in April 2020, in partnership with DoorDash and local food pantries, food banks and restaurants. It’s facilitated by 211, the 24-7 resource (supported by United Way) across the U.S. and Canada that connects people with locally available services.
Want to learn more about mental health initiatives in your community? Find your local United Way here.
If anyone you know needs mental health support, please encourage them to call 211, or visit 211.org. Trained call center operators will connect them with locally available resources.