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July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, so we are talking to Providence staff and caregivers about how they stay grounded.
Providence offers many different outlets for caregivers to address their mental health needs.
Two of the most common types of mental health issues in minorities are depression and anxiety.
While people talk about and address mental health issues much more than they did 50 years ago, some still tread lightly on the topic — particularly among minority communities. During this Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, Providence is working to educate our communities about how important it is to take good care of our mental health.
“There’s so much stigma in many minority communities around mental health,” says Diana Alcantar (she/her/hers), MS, LMFT, director of behavioral health and primary care integration for the Providence Orange County and High Desert region. “So often, families don’t talk about it. They’re very private about family matters like this. This month sheds light on people who may not have a safe space to talk about mental health issues at home.”
Depression and anxiety
Two of the most common mental health issues for minorities are the same as they are for the general population — depression, and anxiety. “We find that many minorities feel isolated, and in that isolation, there can be depression,” Alcantar says. “It’s important to remember that we as humans were designed to experience and feel things. We will have hard times, just as much as we will have happy times.”
With both depression and anxiety, it’s important to understand the signs so you know when you should seek help.
Signs of depression can include:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Loss of interest in activities that you once enjoyed
- Persistent feeling of sadness
- Decreased energy and fatigue
- Feeling restless and having trouble sitting still
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Sudden decrease or increase in appetite
- Physical symptoms such as aches, pains, or digestive problems that don’t have a clear physical cause and don’t get better with treatment
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
There are several different types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and different kinds of phobias.
Signs of generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder can include:
- Feeling wound up
- Having headaches, stomachaches, or unexplained pains
- Chest pain
- Pounding or racing heart
- Feelings of worry
- Sleep problems
- Feelings of being out of control
Take care of yourself
One of the most important aspects of managing mental health is knowing how to seek the resources you need. Some tips include:
Begin a daily or regular routine of checking in with yourself.
What is going on in your thoughts, emotions, and body sensations? “When you take time to align these areas, you increase your capacity to be present and self-aware,” says Laura Chun (she/her/hers), MPM, PMP, C-MT, manager for Compassionate Care with Providence Health. “The alignment translates into your presence with others.”
Schedule intentional times during the day to pause and reset.
“In our contemplative practice here at Providence, these are called ‘mindful pauses,’” says Chun. “Oftentimes, the best practice is to step out of our daily environments to enliven our senses with a walk or moving the body. When you give the mind something else to focus on like the breath, even if just for a few minutes, you activate your parasympathetic nervous system. This reduces heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rates, and increases oxytocin and your ability to choose your response instead of reacting.”
Be kind to yourself when you are facing moments of stress or suffering.
Don’t expect that you will be able to breeze past it as though nothing happened. If you’re stressed out, it’s OK to leave some tasks for later.
Reach out and connect with loved ones and friends for support and care.
“This is a strength and not a weakness,” says Leslie Brown (she/they/theirs), CMP, administrative coordinator for Compassionate Care with Providence Health. “When you connect with trusted others to receive support, it is a gift you are offering to those who have the availability to help.”
And don’t be afraid to seek out professional help, as well. “The first step to finding mental health help is to talk to your primary care doctor or other provider,” says Alcantar. “They can connect you with specific resources in your community that are the right fit for you.”
Alcantar stresses that even if you do not feel comfortable talking to your doctor, you should talk to someone. She points to the website Psychology Today as an example of a place where you can find help with just the click of a button.
Caring for the caregiver
Throughout our health system, we take special care to make sure our employees have resources to address their mental health needs. Our Caregiver Resource Groups (CRGs) are voluntary, employee-led groups designed to create a more inclusive workplace focused on business networking and enhancing career and development. CRGs are groups of employees who come together based on shared characteristics or life experiences. There are several CRGs that focus on different groups of people, including Asian American Pacific Islander, Black, Enabling DisAbilities, Latinx, and LGBTQ+.
We offer the following resources for caregivers:
- “My Mental Health Matters: No One Cares Alone,” a program that makes mental health resources available for providers throughout the system. Depending on an individual’s specific need, it provides online resources, referrals to therapists or mental health coaches, and self-care tools that teach new skills based on proven behavioral health approaches.
- Choose Well provides us with programs, tools, and resources that help us become the best version of ourselves-mind, body, spirit, and financial.
- Lyra is a Caregiver Assistance Program that provides information, resources, guidance, and counseling support 24/7.
For several years, Providence’s Compassionate Care Team has worked to grow a system-wide Mindfulness Support Group (MSG). Volunteers who are trained through the Mindfulness Community of Practice run the group. Scientifically, mindfulness has been shown to improve performance and well-being and positively impact health, both mentally and physically. The MSG provides an opportunity for caregivers throughout the system to pause and focus – renewing a sense of purpose and presence within themselves and as they engage with colleagues, patients, and families.
Both within Providence and in the communities we serve, our goal is to help you find the resources you need to manage your mental health.
A commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion
Providence SoCal Diversity Equity & Inclusion Council (SoCal DEI) is leading some of our efforts to raise cultural awareness and promote diversity to help build appreciation for cultural traditions. We are also starting conversations to help educate people about different cultures as a way to create a more welcoming, equitable, and inclusive environment. We support diversity education and awareness initiatives, thus deepening our ability to provide compassionate care and honor human dignity.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.
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