World Mental Health Day

This past Tuesday, October 10th was World Mental Health Day, which focuses on raising awareness about mental health concerns around the world to ultimately mobilize efforts to support mental health. While I know I don’t have to state the obvious, we are nearly in 2018—a time in history where technology is at a forefront and medical procedures are becoming much more advanced. Regardless of the progression taking place in certain fields such as technology and medicine, mental illness is still a concept that remains stigmatized in many, if not most countries across the globe—including ours.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (43.8 million, or 18.5%) suffer from a mental illness each year and approximately 450 million people around the world are currently suffering with a mental health issue (NIMH, 2015). Only 41 percent of adults with a mental health condition received help and just over half (50.6 percent) of children ages 8-15 received mental health services in the previous year (SAMHSA, 2014).

In 2010, the CDC reported that 57 percent of all adults believed that people are caring and sympathetic to persons with mental illness. However, only 25 percent of adults with mental health symptoms believed that people are caring and sympathetic to persons with mental illness. While efforts have been made to reduce and eliminate the stigma towards mental health, as a society, we are far from attaining this goal.

Time and time again, I have heard individuals say that people “should” be able to deal with “tough times” on their own. The response is simple. If you were to fall and sprain or break your leg, would you seek medical care or “should” you be expected to deal with this “tough time” on your own? Should you just walk it off until everything is better? That’s not a viable or realistic solution, and if we can understand and accept the significance that mental health plays in our daily lives, similarly to medical health, we can each work to break this stigma.

In life, we often find that the act of being vulnerable (to an extent) leads to the attainment or accomplishment of goals. Or at least, it puts us in the direction of doing so. For example, when searching for jobs, we find ourselves engaging in a state of vulnerability as we partake in job interviews—often a scary process for many. Asking somebody out on a date requires a level of vulnerability, as you cannot ensure the outcome you would like. Trying a new restaurant when you already have your top three go-to places also involves being vulnerable because you have no idea whether or not you’ll enjoy the food and dining experience.

So just what happens when we take this step into vulnerability? Well, for starters, you find out in the job interview if the company is the right fit for you, and vice versa. You have the opportunity to analyze the interview and note what went well and how you can improve for future job interviews. When you engage in vulnerability and ask somebody out, there’s the possibility that the person will say yes. Of course, there’s the possibility that the person will say no, but you may never know what their answer is unless you ask. And as for the restaurant, you may end up with a new favorite dish and/or dining spot, or you may realize you never want to go back there again. But we won’t be able to attain these answers and knowledge if we don’t at least try something new.

So when we look at mental health and discussing our own personal mental health, yes, this is another experience in which vulnerability may likely be required. It can be uncomfortable to openly discuss what has been going on in our lives and how that has been affecting us. It can be challenging to freely discuss how we are feeling when it seems as though preconceived notions on the part of others may constantly be present. And it can seem impossible to honestly discuss when we aren’t doing too well. But this is how we break the stigma. We have to start somewhere, and that somewhere is playing our part and finding the courage to be more open regarding our mental health.

Promoting a greater level of mental health starts by speaking up. We cannot expect to break a stigma that has been around for centuries if we don’t practice what we preach. While I can attest that at times, this is easier said than done, what is it that we have to lose? By confiding in a confidant, we allow ourselves the opportunity to be heard. We give ourselves a change to really explore how we are doing without censoring ourselves. And we let ourselves be supported—another act of vulnerability.

Can we overcome “tough times” on our own? Honestly, who cares? Strength can be found within each of us, and overcoming challenging life obstacles by oneself doesn’t define personal strength. Personal strength can often be found in reaching out for a helping and supporting hand. There is strength in numbers, and if we can create and foster a support system and find the courage to open up, we can begin to break the stigma of mental health, while working on and maintaining our own mental health as well.

By no means is this a clinical perspective for anyone dealing with mental health concerns. This is more along the lines of what we can do to break this stigma. Should an individual find themselves in need of help, open up to a confidant and let them know what is going on. If they don’t listen, find somebody else. And if it is an emergency, do not hesitate to call 9-1-1. Know there is a plethora of mental health professionals who are here to listen. Collaborating with a mental health professional to receive treatment and accomplish any goals one sets for themselves is always going to be an option. We just have to be vulnerable by taking the first step.

There is one designated day in the calendar set aside to focus on mental health. (Granted, I missed that day, but I guess it’s better late than never). It is up to us to ensure that we focus on mental health everyday so that being vulnerable and honestly discussing how we are doing is something people can take pride in. We will be the ones who set the standards for how future generations view mental health. But in order for any change to happen, it must start with us.

 

Below are just a few of many available mental health resources:

https://www.nami.org/Find-Support
https://www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help/index.html
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org
https://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml
https://www.goodtherapy.org

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Running For A Cause: Miami Half Marathon

Yesterday, my brother, sister, and I participated in the Miami Half Marathon for the second year in a row. We wanted to run in an attempt to raise money and awareness for Misioneros Del Camino—a cause that is very important to us all. After months of training, the big day had finally arrived! And go figure, it just so happened to be the coldest day of the year here in South Florida (which we were very thankful for).

We woke up at 4:00 in the morning to get some last minute carbs and protein in for breakfast, and made our way over to the American Airlines Arena, where the race was set to begin at 6:00am. When we arrived, we walked over to our assigned corral, and were in the company of 25,000 runners from over 80 countries!

Running throughout South Beach, Downtown Miami, and Brickell was invigorating, and the sights were incredible! What I enjoyed most about the event was the amount of individuals on the sidelines and all throughout the streets who cheered us on. Complete strangers spent their entire morning motivating us to keep on running. It was absolutely beautiful, and it made the event even more memorable. And running alongside thousands of individuals from all over the world, and working together to reach a common goal by pushing one another forward was incredible. After 12 full weeks of training and 173.06 miles completed, we crossed the finish line and were finally ready to rest!

This experience was definitely one to remember, and seeing how many loved ones came together to help support our cause has left me speechless. We were able to raise over $2,700 these past few weeks, which will help provide four children special education and daily therapies for an entire year—all for free at Misioneros Del Camino! Thanks to everyone’s help, we have been able to positively affect the lives of numerous children, and we will be able to help give them hope for a brighter future; one which they deserve! I could not be any more grateful or appreciative, and for that, I thank you all.

Snapshot Challenge Saturday

This week’s Snapshot Challenge is in honor of a Dance Marathon benefitting the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals currently taking place at my alma mater, the University of Central Florida. Each year, hundreds and thousands of students gather together and stand for a certain amount of hours in honor of those who can’t. This year the goal is to raise $500,000 which is definitely possible! It’s incredible how far one dollar can go, and when everyone comes together for a great cause, countless miracles can be made for those in need. Now this is something that’s truly beautiful.

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Half Marathon Training Weeks 9 and 10

The only good thing about the Half Marathon being less than two weeks away is the fact that the runs are getting smaller and smaller. The reason for this is so that I can recuperate quicker and ultimately be prepared for the big day. Week 9 has actually been one of my favorite weeks of running, not only since the distances are less than usual, but because it continues to boggle my mind thinking that I have been training for 9 weeks to reach a goal I had set for myself. In this week alone, I reached 22 miles and am anticipating the big day, which is now just one week away.

As I progress through week 10 of training, I’ll have run 26.1 miles by the end of the week, 13.1 of which will be completed at the half marathon! I keep wondering whether or not I’ll continue to run after the marathon and stick with the training, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and find out. The first step though, will be completing the marathon, which we can only hope actually happens.

A few days ago, I wrote about Mami Leo’s story of having started the orphanage on her own with only $2,700 to her name. She has managed to provide thousands of children with food, an education, and a home to call their own, but most importantly, she provided the children with love, which is something they never received before coming to Misioneros Del Camino. Over the past two years, Mami Leo’s health has been declining, but that hasn’t taken away from the love and care that these children still receive on a daily basis. When I last saw Mami Leo in November, I remember seeing her saying, “There is still more I need to do.” Together, we can help Mami Leo continue to fulfill her mission and help these children have the life they deserve.

The work that Mami Leo has done is what has been motivating me to train for this upcoming Sunday’s Half Marathon, and she is the reason why I continue returning to Guatemala year after year. If you would like to help contribute to this incredible cause so that we can carry out Mami Leo’s work, please feel free to click on the below link. And if you would like to learn more about Misioneros Del Camino, please feel free to clink on the bottom link. http://www.gofundme.com/h8kjvs http://www.misionerosdelcamino.org/index.php

Click on the pictures below to read the stories of each child

Getting Back Into The Swing Of Things

It has been quite some time since I consistently posted here on WordPress. I can use the excuses of having been busy with classes, finals, the daily stressors that use up our focus and energy, or I could just pick one out of a hat, because believe me, there are plenty of excuses I’ve been holding onto.  However, in the scheme of things, I don’t really have a legitimate excuse to not have been blogging, except for the fact that I was tired. Since my return from Spain in August, I no longer had exciting adventures to share. Any and all progress made with my book had come to a standstill, so I hid from writing. I avoided it at all costs and tried to put my focus anywhere else that I could. However, in the end, for us bloggers and writers, there is no avoiding writing so here I am, facing my fear and returning to the blogging world. There is a lot to talk about since my absence so I hope you’re prepared. Not to mention, I hope I’m prepared too. And within the next few weeks, I will be working on independent publishing so that I can finally accomplish the goal of publishing my book. This is where I would insert the saying, “Here goes nothing,” but I’d like to rephrase that into a more positive one. There is no harm in trying to accomplish your goals, for regardless of how successful you think you may or not be, you’ll always be successful for having known that you did what you set out to do. So as I was saying, “Here goes something.”