GOOD MORNING: Exercising a mental health care plan

Jerrie Whiteley
Herald Democrat
Jerrie Whiteley / Herald Democrat

Over the course of the pandemic, I, like many others, made some changes to my lifestyle. As we start to wrap up the month set aside to talk about mental health, I would like to address the issue one more time. One of the changes I made after suffering a family loss during the pandemic was to go back into talk therapy.

I have dealt with depression most of my life, and at times of extraordinary loss or change, have sought help from a licensed professional. Each and every time, those people have helped me to navigate my way out of the depths of despair.

I wanted to say this publicly again because I feel it is important to acknowledge that seeing a doctor for mental health is no more a sign of weakness than seeing a doctor for physical sickness or injury. 

It is important that one find a well-trained professional, though. And it important to note that the therapist is not a magician. They are more of a guide to help one find a path back to solid ground. The work isn't easy or painless, but the rewards can literally be lifesaving.

Some people use prescription medications in addition to talk therapy and there is no shame in that approach. Those medications can help people find the strength to continue to face life on a daily basis. This time around, I decided to try to use nature's anti-depressant — physical activity. Don't get me wrong. I am not saying overcoming serious depression is as easy as taking a walk. I hate when people say things like that or "just choose to be happy." If it were that easy, no one would ever be depressed. Real, deep depression can make it hard to get out of bed, let alone get to the gym. 

But the endorphins I get each time I make it to a work out lift me another inch or so above the abyss. It is a gift I have learned to give myself. In combination with therapy, it helps me win this battle that I never asked to have to fight. 

As May slowly fades to June, I hope we don't stop talking about  mental health and the importance of accepting those who face such ongoing challenges.

For more information, call 1-877-726-4727 to find out about mental health and to local treatment services. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/ to chat live with a trained counselor.