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Cook County Connections: Mental Health Awareness Month

May 12, 2023 09:26AM ● By Editor
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From Cook County, Minnesota - May 12, 2023

By: Grace Grinager, Public Health Supervisor for Cook County Public Health and Human Services 

While mental health is essential to a person’s overall health and quality of life all year round, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This is a time for us to come together around the message that mental health matters for every person living in our communities. 

Everyone has mental health, it affects how we think, feel, and act each day. However mental health is often ignored until something goes wrong. Experiencing poor mental health is not the same as having a mental health condition—we all have tough days and weeks when we struggle with our mental health. A mental health condition is diagnosed by an appropriate professional. To be diagnosed, changes in how a person thinks, feels, or behaves must be seriously hurting their ability to do the things they want to do—with symptoms remaining for long periods of time. This can look like extreme and unexpected mood changes, feeling more sad or worried than usual, not thinking clearly, or pulling away from friends and family.   

Nationally, 20% of adults in the United States experience mental condition each year. Of these, less than half receive treatment. The reasons for this lack of treatment are complex and include struggles to access care to due to finances, availability of appropriate care, knowledge of how to connect to available resources, as well as negative social attitudes surrounding mental health challenges—which can be perceived as a personal failure and lead to discrimination against the individual who is struggling with their mental health. While there are many types of mental health conditions a person can experience, it is possible to heal. 

Taking care of our own mental health is crucial, and connecting with friends and family to support others’ mental health is just as important. When we take care of our mental health, both our physical and emotional health improve. We can learn how to manage stress in healthy ways. When we talk about mental health openly, it encourages those who are struggling to seek help. When we provide resources and listen to the experiences of those struggling with their mental health, it creates a more caring and compassionate community and encourages others to reach out for mental health support when they need it. 

 ·                  Tips to support mental well-being: 

o        Eat well. A diet full of whole grains, lean meats, fish, fruits, and vegetables to support the gut-brain connection. 

o        Get regular exercise. Even one hour of exercise a week improves a person’s mood and reduces rates of anxiety and substance use disorders. A brisk ten minute walk each day can help meet this goal. 

o        Connect with others. Social connections and strong relationships improve both mental and physical well-being. It’s never too late to build connections with others. Taking a class, joining a book club, volunteering, or just reaching out to chat with a neighbor are all great places to start. 

o        Get enough sleep. Adults need 7-9 hours per night to support both mental and physical health. 

o        Seek support when you need it. Regardless of your situation, there are resources and people out there who are willing to help. 

o        Support and accept people you know and love who are struggling with their mental health. Even small gestures of support can have a big impact and can help reduce the stigma and discrimination that people can experience when they are living with a mental health condition. 

Cook County Public Health and Human Services are engaged in a range of community-wide initiatives to provide skills and knowledge that allow people to better recognize and respond to signs of mental health struggles. They also form a foundation of substance use prevention work with youth, as research shows that mental health struggles and substance use disorders often develop alongside one another. Some goals of this work include: 

·                  Raise community awareness of the signs and symptoms of mental health issues so that we can work together to support one another better. 

·                  Raise awareness of the mental health resources that exist and people who are willing to offer help. 

·                  Provide people with tools to support their own mental health and wellbeing. 

·                  Make it okay to reach out and seek help whenever a person is struggling with poor mental health. 

Anyone experiencing mental health-related distress including suicide, mental health, and/or substance use crisis can call, chat, or text 988 for free and confidential support. People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support. If you or your loved one is in immediate danger, call 911.

Learn more about local initiatives to support community mental health and wellbeing in Cook County and the Public Health and Human Services (PHHS) department at the May 16 PHHS Board Meeting at 8:30 a.m. in the Cook County Commissioners Room. PHHS Board Meetings are available to livestream and view on the Cook County website at You can also find our Facebook @CookCountyPHHS to learn more about public health and human services resources in Cook County.  


County Connections is a column on timely topics and service information from your Cook County government. Cook County – Supporting Community Through Quality Public Service.

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