National Public Health Week looks at mental wellness

April 10, 2022

National Public Health Week looks at mental wellness

MOBILE, Ala. — During the first full week of April each year, the American Public Health Association (APHA) brings together communities across the country to observe National Public Health Week (NPHW). This week is a time to recognize the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving our nation’s health.

The Mobile County Health Department (MCHD) joins APHA in celebrating the 27th NPHW on April 4-10. This year’s theme, “Public Health is Where You Are,” celebrates what we know is true — the places where we are, physically, mentally, and societally affect our health and our lives. Each day during the week has a theme that focuses on the intersections of our lives that affect our health and well-being.

The Mobile County Health Department’s Health Equity Office (HEO) recognizes today’s theme of “Mental Wellness: Redefining the Meaning of Health” as a part of National Public Health Week. Skandan Ananthasekar, an HEO Outreach Educator, submitted today’s article.

Mental health is a critical component of our physical, emotional, and social wellbeing. Our mental health affects how we think, feel, and act. This includes how well we cope with stress, relate to others, make health choices, and our ability to make contributions to society. Yet, mental illness is one of the most common health conditions. In fact, each year, 20 percent of Americans will experience mental illness. Minority populations, however, suffer from poorer mental health outcomes due to gaps in access to and quality of mental health care.

Public health plays an important role in improving mental wellbeing by working towards the prevention, early detection, and treatment of mental health conditions. Advocacy for mental health is also crucial to reduce stigma around mental illness and reduce barriers around behavioral health care. Strategies to improve mental health on an individual level include physical activity, quality sleep, a balanced diet, social connectedness, and talking to a licensed therapist.

The HEO is featuring Kendra Wilson, a clinical disease intervention specialist, to learn from her expertise and experience about the importance of mental wellbeing.

Ms. Wilson learned about the importance of mental health while working for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. When one of her close friends tested HIV-positive, she started to notice the signs and symptoms of mental illness. Her friend’s mental illness was further exacerbated by COVID-19 and Ms. Wilson could see the signs of mental decline through her daily conversations with her friend. This decline in mental health because of the COVID-19 pandemic was felt by many people whether it was because of social isolation or loss of a loved one. Working in behavioral health, Ms. Wilson learned to read the signs of mental illness even when a person says that everything is fine.

Ms. Wilson believes that one key to changing the conversation around mental health is to rethink the language we use. For example, the word “normal” can be harmful because rather than defining what is acceptable and unacceptable, we should learn to accept people for who they are. Of course, we can always help people improve themselves, but it shouldn’t be in the goal of changing that person to fit some definition of normal. Furthermore, the need to be viewed as normal by society can prevent people from going outside their comfort zones.

Ms. Wilson always brings a cheerful attitude to work and never lets her personal life interfere with her professional so that she can provide the highest level of emotional support and advice for her patients. She treats her patients the same way she would want to be treated if she was in that position. She also has the same joyous attitude with her co-workers. She truly believes that everyone she works with is a team and always looks out for everybody on her team. _____________________________________________________________________________________

This media product was supported by funds made available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Center for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support, under 1 NH75OT000104-01-00. The content of this media product is that of the authors and does not necessarily stand for the official position of or endorsement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.