Caring for yourself and thers: National Mental Health Month with CASA in the Heart of Texas

Special to the Bulletin

May is National Mental Health Month, and CASA in the Heart of Texas wants you to know that caring for your mental health is just as important as caring for your physical health.

“We’re facing a public health crisis right now with the outbreak of COVID-19, and each of us is coping in different ways,” said Michelle Wells, Executive Director of CASA in the Heart of Texas. “During these strange times, in addition to watching out for our physical health, we also need to be doing everything we can to take care of our mental health.”

CASA in the Heart of Texas is a local nonprofit that recruits and trains CASA volunteers, or Court Appointed Special Advocates, to advocate for children and families involved in the foster care system in Brown, Comanche, and Mills counties. Sadly, the children and families served by these volunteers are at a high risk for experiencing mental health issues.

“As advocates for those involved in foster care, we see children, parents and families struggling with mental health issues often, and helping them access the treatment and services they need is a core part of what we do,” Wells said.

Like the kids and families CASA in the Heart of Texas serves, we can all benefit from taking good care of our mental health. This looks different for everyone, Wells said. For some, it can mean keeping up with regular exercise and a healthy diet. For others, it can mean practicing meditation and mindfulness. For still others, it can mean opening up to someone, whether a friend or a professional. Whatever it means to you, there’s no better time than now to make your mental health a priority, she said.

“We’re living in an especially stressful and isolating time. Through this crisis, our CASA volunteers are continuing to keep an eye out for the mental health of the children and families they’re serving, because it’s an equal partner to physical health,” Wells said. “Make sure you’re doing the same, both for yourself and for others.”

Though there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, Wells has a few tips on how you can look after your mental health during this time of physical distancing.

If you’re looking for safe ways to stay active, there are many free workout channels on video platforms like YouTube, as well as smartphone apps for running, yoga and more. You can also help keep your brain “trained” through mindfulness exercises and meditation.

If you’re working from home, be as gentle with yourself as you can. Do what you can to maintain a healthy work-life balance and give yourself breaks when you know you need them. Try not to hold yourself to unrealistic expectations when it comes to focus and productivity.

If you’re struggling, consider opening up to a trusted friend, partner or family member. It might be scary at first, but chances are, the person will be glad you told them how you are feeling and will be happy to support you and lend a listening ear.

If you think you could benefit from professional help, many mental health providers are currently offering telehealth services. Check out Psychology Today’s Find a Therapist tool to get started. You can also consider online or text therapy.

Finally, Texas Health and Human Services has launched a 24/7 statewide mental health support line to help people experiencing anxiety, stress or emotional challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can call toll-free at 833-986-1919. Counseling services are confidential and free of charge.

“This National Mental Health Month comes during an exceptionally difficult time, and it’s more important than ever that we come together in safe ways and take care of ourselves and each other,” Wells said. “We can all benefit from investing in our mental health, both right now and in the future.”

There will be a CASA 101: Information session on 6:00 PM, Tuesday, June 2, 2020, at 901 Avenue B in Brownwood. For more information on CASA in the Heart of Texas, the issues children and families in the foster care system face, and the work of CASA volunteers, visit www.CASAbrownwood.org, www.BecomeACASA.org or call the office at 325-643-2557 to speak with staff today.