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Why you should pay attention to your mental health

May is Mental Health Awareness Month
Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 1:41 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - In a year of ups and downs, many people faced new challenges, but before putting everything behind people must prepare for what’s ahead.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, experts say it’s important to talk about mental health and destigmatize mental illness.

Dr. Patrick Jensen, a psychiatrist with Covenant Health, said he’s seen a lot of people looking for help this past year.

“What I have seen are a few phenomena that are somewhat new. One of them is high-level executives who are experiencing anxiety and depression for the first time and some of which is a result of managing payroll and being concerned they won’t make payroll,” Jensen said. “People who have contracted covid, they go to the hospital and it’s traumatic because they feared for their lives... then they have a hard time recovering not just physically but emotionally.”

Dr. Jensen said Penninsula Behavioral Health Clinic has also seen an increase in people with substance abuse disorders. “A lot of the 12 step recovery groups shut down or went remote and some of these individuals fell through the cracks and they relapsed.”

Dr. Jensen said it’s important to listen to people close to you and seek help if you think you need it.

“Family members are often the best at seeing changes in someone’s temperament or behavior. So if a family member has a concern it will often create insight for the individual,” he said. “I would have a listening ear to family members and when they express concern, I would take those concerns seriously.”

As the county navigates back into “normal” life and calendars start to fill up again, Jensen said it’s important people give themselves breaks.

“If you’ve been isolated for months on end, some people are fearful of getting out of the house, fearful of the vaccine- there’s still a lot of controversy around that-, they’re fearful around social normal routines because they’ve been away from it for so long,” Jensen said. “Do it in baby steps. Don’t flood yourself with the same social apparatus you had before the pandemic. Take baby steps, have some graduated exposures and once you feel more comfortable with the social settings then you can move on to the next social challenge. “

Dr. Jensen said if a person is feeling anxious they should make sure they’re practicing self-care.

“It is going to look a little different for everybody but there are fundamental principles to self-care. One is taking breaks for yourself, make sure you’re not working 7 days a week,” Jensen said. “Some people can only sustain that for only so long, so you have a day you are not working. You have time for yourself. You’re engaged in your hobbies you’re engaged in your interest, things that give you satisfaction, things that give you great joy.”

Dr. Jensen is encouraged there is a whole month to bring awareness to mental health but more must be done.

“I think we still have a long way to go to bring a lot of education to society and the public about mental health. Mental illness and mental health,” Jensen said. “There are a lot of things we can do to promote mental health, which doesn’t mean we have a mental illness, but promote mental health exercise self-care, etc... there’s also a mental illness that we need to destigmatize.

Many support groups coordinated by Peninsula Behavioral Health Counselors are free and currently offered virtually. You can call 865-970-9800 or visit their website.

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