Talking With Your Professor About Your Mental Health

Recognizing, discussing and seeking assistance for mental health concerns is difficult.  There is a vulnerability (and a fear of stigma for many) that may cause one to hesitate to communicate and/or pursue help, if at all.  Know that you are not alone- mental wellness shifts for everyone, and everybody finds themselves needing help sometimes.  This graphic from Mental Health America illustrates some options and suggestions for how to communicate with your professors about your struggles and needs.

NOVA-specific options you may also consider include:

Remember, you are cared for, and NOVA is here to support you!  If you find yourself feeling unsafe and in need of support, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

    • Available 24/7
    • 1-800-273-8255, or chat
    • 1-888-628-9454 (Spanish Language)
    • 711 (Deaf or hard of hearing)
    • 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, text 838255, or chat (Veterans)

For immediate assistance, please call 911.

Suicide Prevention is On All of Us

September is National Suicide Prevention Month.  Within this month are Suicide Prevention Week from September 5-11, and World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10.  With suicide being the tenth leading cause of death in the United States (second among 10-34 year old persons, and fourth for 35-44 year old persons), we need to be more vigilant about improving general mental health, and provide support to one another.

Suicide is not an easy topic to discuss, especially because many people feel that they may accidentally say the wrong thing, push their friend or loved one into hurting themselves, or may implant the suggestion of suicide, but this just isn’t true.  Suicidal thinking is isolative, and knowing that someone loves and supports you nonjudgmentally often is just the support someone needs to hang in there, and seek some help.

There are many notable signs, like in the graphic above, that someone may display when they are dealing with suicidal thinking.  Suicide is also not a spontaneous action, rather, people who attempt or consider attempting to kill themselves have thought about it for some time.  There is a spectrum of consideration for suicide, and when someone has decided to carry out an attempt, they appear more at peace because the anxiety of contending with their pain feels like it’s over.  Even then, it is not too late.  If you see someone suffering, offer your ear.  Compassionate connection is the gateway to addressing pain and trauma, moving a person away from potentially ending his/her/their life.

Some local and national resources include:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
    • Available 24/7
    • 1-800-273-8255, or chat
    • 1-888-628-9454 (Spanish Language)
    • 711 (Deaf or hard of hearing)
    • 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, text 838255, or chat (Veterans)
  • PRS Crisis Link Hotline (Northern Virginia):
    • Available 24/7
    • 703-527-4077 or text CONNECT to 85511
    • 711 (Deaf or hard of hearing)
  • Crisis Text Line:
    • Available 24/7
    • Text HOME to 741741
  • The Trevor Project (LGBT):
    • Available 24/7
    • 1-866-488-7386
    • Text START to 678678
    • TrevorCHAT

Join us in the effort to prevent suicide for all, and check out the #bethe1to campaign!

“Even the darkest night will end, and the sun will rise.”

Sources:

https://afsp.org/suicide-statistics/

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide

August is Wellness Month! Tips to Focus on Your Wellness

 

Happy Wellness Month! More than ever, the need to focus on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellness is apparent.  With just a few dedicated moments and strategies, you can keep your general wellness on track, lessening the pains and frustrations of life’s challenging moments.

While there are many facets and ways to focus on your wellness, consider focusing on the following, and coming up with a few of your own:

  1. Prioritize sleep.  Not getting restorative sleep sets the tone for your day, and puts your energy and focus at a deficit.  When you can, get an extra half hour or so of rest to prepare you for the next day.
  2. Stay hydrated.  Water consumption is fundamental to many bodily functions and processes, including thinking, movement, clear skin and sleep, so drink up!
  3. Practice gratitude.  We all are striving everyday to grow, and unfortunately, it can be easy to focus on what we do not have.  Instead, reflect on what you do have, and the strides you made to meet your needs and goals.
  4. Get well exams.  Regular check-ups with a doctor or other certified professional supports overall health by giving you a status on your physical wellbeing, as well as areas to focus on, if necessary.  Early intervention is the best intervention!
  5. Incorporate fruits/veggies.  A variety of produce in your daily food consumption not only supports your physical wellness, but they taste great!  Try out a new, colorful fruit/vegetable, or one you decided you did not like a child- maybe you’ll change your mind!
  6. Take a walk/get outside.  Fresh air is a necessity, and a great tool for centering yourself.  Pause and take in the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations around you.
  7. Do something without expectation of something in return.  A great way to take the focus off of yourself, especially when you are not feeling the greatest, is to do a good deed for someone else.  The smile you give to another can bring yours back, too!
  8. Plan for setbacks.  Nothing goes our way 100% of the time, so a good way to prevent feeling devastated when life throws a hardship your way is to prepare for the possibility that tough times may come.  They are temporary; having skills, resources and supports in place will lessen their disruption.
  9. Practice deep breathing.  Have you ever sighed and realized that your jaw or fists are clenched?  Breathing not only supports physical processes, but our emotional and spiritual health as well.  Take a moment to engage in mindful breathing; focus on the present, and let go of the tension or worry you may be experiencing.
  10. Limit screen time.  Turn off the TV, log off social media, put down your phone.  Looking at screens too long is not only unhealthy for your eyes, but you may be engaged in internalizing negative stimuli, such as negative news stories, or people ranting online, and these can zap your mood.  Schedule your screen time to limit your exposure, and engage in some of the tips above!

What’s your favorite way to focus on your wellness?  Find a new strategy, and share it (or your tried and true methods) with a friend today!

BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month

July is BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month!  Strength in Communities is the theme for 2021, a focal point to be continued even after this month ends.  This theme highlights those persons that are marginalized within their intersectionality of being a person of color and a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.  The more identities one identifies with, the likelier it is they experience a hardship related to discrimination, racism and xenophobia.

Author Bebe Moore Campbell was a mental health advocate that through her personal experiences and writing the book, 72 Hour Hold, brought attention to the disparities experiences by those who are not white as it relates to their mental wellness.  She advocated for services, recognition, and empowerment of those suffering with mental illness, as well as for their family members, especially those in a caregiving role.  In 2007, July was declared Bebe Moore Campbell Minority Mental Health Awareness Month by U.S. Congress.

Terminology often changes in order to align with collective values and knowledge gained to minimize alienating others.  The terms used to describe individuals and groups that are non-white are changing because previous terms incidentally failed to realize individuals, and that whole racial groups are not a monolith.  A good rule of thumb is to ask who you are conversing with how they would like to be identified to avoid offending them.

To learn more about BIPOC mental health, check out:

Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month!  This month celebrates the societal contributions of women.   Beginning as a week-long celebration in California in 1978 where students engaged in essay contests, presentations and parades, this idea soon spread across the United States.  President Jimmy Carter recognized the week of March 8 as Women’s History Week in 1980; lobbying by the National Women’s History Project led to congress recognizing all of March as Women’s History Month in 1986.

Focusing on the history of women’s suffrage (the right to vote in elections), this year’s theme is “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to Be Silenced.”  Made possible with the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, women’s right to vote was a hard fought effort by many through marches, protests, demonstrations and petitions.  The resounding argument was made that as citizens of the United States and contributing members of society, women deserve all the rights, freedoms and responsibilities afforded to men.  This paved the way for quests for equality in the workplace, pay, ability to own property, medical decisions and reproductive rights, and more.

Many women, like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Shirley Chisholm, and Betty Friedan have been trailblazers for the equality of not just other women, but for all.  Their efforts to be the voices of the disenfranchised, poor, excluded and ignored have led to changes in law, practices and societal expectations that have benefited many.   Others from around the world, such as Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, Tarana Burke, Brene’ Brown, Ava DuVernay, and Laverne Cox are currently advocating for women’s recognition, visibility and overall societal growth through advocacy for the environment, LGBTQ+ rights, mental wellness, education, addressing consent and more through the use of art, science, collaboration and the like.

Learn more about Women’s History Month, and recognize and appreciate the women in your life today!

Self-Injury Awareness Day

March 1 is designated as Self-Injury Awareness Day.  This campaign was born out of the importance of bringing awareness to the acts of self-harm, and to destigmatize their existence.  By acknowledging the acts of self-injury, we can provide empathy and understanding to its sufferers; lessen fear and silent suffering; and encourage education about what self-injury is, why it occurs, and how to address it.

Self-injury differs from suicide attempts as it is not intended to end life, rather, it is an attempt to deal with overwhelming emotions like anger, frustration, and pain.  The cycle of self-injury is marked by an escalation of emotion that one feels out of control of, and they engage in a behavior that causes bodily harm (cutting, burning, scratching, hitting self, piercing skin, etc.) which brings temporary feelings of relief and calm.  This then turns into feelings of guilt and shame, and a lessened effect of the chosen method of self-injury, which may lead to using a more severe method/frequent self-harm, increasing the possibility of ongoing harm and/or accidental death.

Awareness of self-injury provides opportunities for those experiencing pain to learn healthier methods to manage their emotions and crises when they occur with the aim of validating pain while preserving life and instilling hope.  The stigma around mental illness and self-injury further isolates those suffering causing them and their loved ones of their voices because not knowing if and what to say can be detrimental as well.  The Mayo Clinic has a thorough summation of the causes, symptoms, types, implications and methods of support for self-injury.

There is also a newer phenomenon of digital self-harm, wherein one uses memes and other online forms of expression to speak to their pain; pose as others speaking negatively of the poster/cyberbullying the poster; or making repeated commentary about self-injury and self-loathing.  Visibility of these posts and gaining “likes” does not serve to support the individual in their mind, rather, it validates the despair and further serves to encourage self-injury.

Orange is the representative color of self-injury awareness, shown either through the wearing of a ribbon, or of drawings of orange butterflies on the wrist.  You can show your support on March 1 by wearing orange and seeking to learn more about self-injury and how you can intervene on behalf of yourself or others.  If you or someone you know is struggling, please fill out a Student in Need of Assistance Report for support through NOVA CARE teams (within the NOVA community), or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.  If you need immediate assistance due to safety concerns on campus, contact NOVA Police at 703-764-5000 or call 911 (off campus).

Random Acts of Kindness Day

February 17 is Random Acts of Kindness Day (Random Acts of Kindness Week falls February 14-20)!  This day highlights unplanned, heartfelt acts of altruism where individuals or groups can “pay it forward” to others.  It can be something simple like giving a compliment, holding a door, or paying for someone’s cup of coffee; it can also be grand, like giving a donation, volunteering time, or helping someone in immediate need.

The event name is derived from a quote from Anne Herbert, who in 1982 wrote “practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a placemat.   Ms. Herbert was an American author and journalist who published a book named after the quote before passing away in 2015.  The idea has been popularized in media, education institutions, and communities alike.

Especially in this time of high stress, taking care of yourself and others is imperative.  Participating in giving and receiving random acts of kindness can positively impact mood, relationships, foster hope, and a sense of connectedness when so many of us are feeling so far apart.  Acts of kindness can be witnessed or not, but as long as the energy and feeling behind the actions you take come from a place of love and kindness, proceed!  (see graphic above for some suggestions)

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has cool materials to share for this event, like calendars, posters, coloring pages, videos and more.  You can also search for kindness suggestions by subject, such as children, animals, at work or at school.  Provided are suggestions on tips to use all year round.  Check out this additional list of 101 Random Acts of Kindness, and come up with some of your own.  Carve out a few minutes to pass along a bit of kindness today!

Black History Month 2021

Black History Month (also known as African-American History Month) is celebrated from February 1 to March 1 in the United States and Canada.  Black History Month manifested from Negro History Week, championed by Carter G. Woodson, which began in 1926 during the second week of February.  In 1976, Gerald Ford was the first president to officially recognize Black History Month, which continues today.

The month was established to highlight the contributions of African-Americans, as well as Black history and plights experienced by the African-American community.    This also presents an opportunity for non-Black persons to learn about Black culture, recognize the shortcomings related to equity, equality and recognition of the rights and humanity of Black people, and engage in dialogue, advocacy, and self-reflection.

Learn more about some notable contributors to Black excellence, such as Carter G. Woodson, Maya Angelou, Ruby Bridges, Medgar Evers, Mary McLeod Bethune, Angela Davis, Jesse Jackson, Henrietta Lacks, John Lewis, and James Baldwin.   New names are emerging during current times of social justice reform, like S. Lee Merritt, Ibram X. Kendi, Ijeoma Olou, Ta-Nehisi Coates,  Rachel Cargle, and Stacey Abrams.

“The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity” is the theme for Black History Month 2021.  Check out ongoing programming from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, Association for the Study of African American Life and History [ASALH] (graphic below), and NOVA’s Student Life (graphic below) happening this month!

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Sources:

Black History Month, History.com editors, https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-month

African-American History Month, Library of Congress, https://www.africanamericanhistorymonth.gov/

MLK Day of Service

The third Monday of January is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday meant to be “a day on, not a day off,” and a call to service.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, as a son of a pastor.  The men of his family had a long history of religious service, which influenced Dr. King’s educational goals.  He received his doctorate in 1953, and began servicing as a pastor himself, and committee member of the NAACP.  He championed civil rights, leading nonviolent demonstrations, boycotts, and traveling all over the United States, speaking about the injustices experienced by persons of color and the economically disadvantaged.  Dr. King is most known for his “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered to over 250,000 people in Washington, D.C. in 1963.  He was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace in 1964 at age 35, making him the youngest person to do so at the time.  He also spoke out about the Vietnam War, and racism and discrimination against African Americans.  Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968, where he planned to lead a protest in support of garbage workers that had gone on strike.

Former president Ronald Reagan signed a bill in 1983 after consistent requests from The King Center, making Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a federal holiday, however, all states had not adopted the day of celebration as an official holiday until 2000.  Former senators John Lewis and Harris Wooford co-authored legislation to create MLK Day of Service, which was approved in 1994.

As the country continues to struggle with racial inequality, discrimination, gender and sexual orientation bias, immigration issues, and other human rights concerns, many activists and volunteers are still fighting and carrying on the legacy of Dr. King.  Here are ways you can engage for MLK Day of Service:

Remember: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

—Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sources:

Martin Luther King Jr. Biographical

MLK Day

History of MLK Day of Service

World Human Rights Day

December 10 marks World Human Rights Day (HRD)!

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted on December 10, 1948, and the upholding and revisions of this document have been made by the United Nations (UN).  It aims to clearly define the rights of humans all over the world, as well as encourage people to stand up for the rights of others when they see violations of human rights, and harm being done to their fellow humans.

The theme for HRD 2020 is “Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights”.   In light of the global pandemic, it is even more imperative to highlight and fight for human rights while many are suffering, and struggling with their respective countries political and economic impacts on its citizens.  In the past, pioneers such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the current Dalai Lama have been recognized for their efforts for pervasive recognition of the rights of others.  Many such persons make efforts daily in support of this initiative; take the time to learn more about their contributions.

You do not have to be famous or a formal advocate to have an impact; treat others with, and expect them to treat you with dignity, respect, and common courtesy.  Speak up for injustices and wrongdoing that you see.  Contribute to local initiatives and committees that impact your neighborhoods and localities.  Learn about politicians and others in formal office and what they stand for, and fight for change where necessary.

You can learn more about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights available in over 500 languages.  It is also available in a  simplified version, in an illustrated booklet, and in sign languages.   Share on social media with hashtag #humanrightsday!