Stand Together for Mental Health

The mind is the seat of consciousness, unconsciousness, and mental processes including thought, imagination, memory, will, and sensation. It is responsible for perception, pain experience, belief, desire, intention, and emotion.

Imagine this seat of consciousness and unconsciousness has been infiltrated and those processes are compromised.  How would you know? What would you do if you knew?  

Most experts agree trauma is an underlying (and often unresolved) common denominator for individuals experiencing behavioral health challenges. Trauma has an indelible impact on all of us whether from adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) or traumas experienced across the lifespan.

The pandemic introduced another layer of complexity. COVID-19 forced many to operate, isolate, and perform in ways that created stress, uncertainty, and confusion.  Studies show individuals are more likely to perform better when their mental health and wellbeing (MWB) is high.

MWB is a critical part of developing healthy coping skills to manage the challenges we face every day. Mental health is defined by the World Health Organization as not merely the absence of mental health problems but as a “state of wellbeing in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community”. MWB is central to effective human functioning. 

Let’s go back to our opening questions and expand.

For many people, the first sign of trauma is a change in behavior, especially in response to something sudden. For others, trauma may be something that has impacted us over a period of time and may become part of our everyday embodiment. Regardless of whether we are experiencing acute trauma or chronic trauma, the “what would you do?” opportunities are the same: identify resources and supports to help address trauma in a healthy way.

Fortunately, the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) have partnered on the Together for Mental Health campaign. DBHIDS and NAMI remind us that anyone can experience mental illness regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender identity.

It is important to recognize there are common barriers to accessing treatment, such as cost, prejudice, and discrimination. We’re not all in the same boat when it comes to moving toward mental wellbeing. We ARE in the same storm of COVID-19 and the traumas experienced as a result, but we are in different boats. 

Recognizing these challenges, DBHIDS embraced the mantra: “it’s OK to NOT be OK” and launched the “Boost Your Mood” campaign. DBHIDS provides a variety of resources to support Philadelphians experiencing trauma, mental illness, substance use/dependence, and other behavioral health challenges.

Using Trauma, Equity, and Community (TEC) as a lens to understanding and addressing behavioral health challenges across Philadelphia’s diverse communities, DBHIDS believes that regardless of the level of stress and/or trauma we experience, we can all embrace mental wellbeing and thrive. We are #Together4MH.

H. Jean Wright II is deputy commissioner of the City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS) where he oversees the Behavioral Health and Justice Division. He has a doctorate in psychology with focus in clinical and forensic psychology.

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