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Mental Health Awareness Month

By: Mousumi Sabina, Mental Health Consultant

The Mental Health Awareness month 2024 theme is

Movement: Moving more for our mental health

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Since its inception in 1949, Mental Health Awareness Month has been a cornerstone of addressing the issues around mental health. Throughout the month, mental health professionals actively participate in the movement, dedicated to eradicating stigma, extending support, fostering public education and advocating for policies that prioritize the well-being of individuals and families affected by mental illness.

Mousumi Sabina with Laal members

Working at Laal -  My Reflections:

As I write this, it’s mid-April and exactly one year of working with Laal. Last spring we started our session on Mental Health Awareness Day; I remember I was very excited to start the journey working with our community womxn far away from home (Bangladesh). It's like finding my connections, feeling the emotions we hold in our heart as Bangladeshi living in the USA. It didn’t take me long to reconnect and create some quality bonds with the participants and others working at Laal. When I met Sanjana, the founder of Laal we  had a very spontaneous conversation, that conversation we may call ‘a meeting’ in professional language where we discussed  the work we are trying to establish within our immigrant Bengali community, she trusted me and gave me full responsibility to plan and develop the very sensitive but time appropriate program on mental health and lead the workshops. By the time I have started the weekly support group session my enthusiasm has been replaced with confidence. I had to learn to communicate with my participants in more understandable verbal and non-verbal communication and had the chance to deliver my expertise in a multidimensional perspective where participants were not matched on the basis of their age/educational status or social conditions, it was quite challenging to integrate all the dimensions as a group leader and help the participants to integrate the ideas and concepts of taking care of their mental health. But I made sure with consistent effort and taking slow but steady steps, breaking down the work into small parts to make our support group more effective. And the fall session ended with a lot of connecting /shared feelings and emotions.

Mousumi (pictured in blue) leading Laal's Mental Health Support Group

For me, working at Laal is also creating a fresh new understanding of how we can work together to become more resilient and work towards creating an emotional safe space for all the members.The upcoming spring and fall 2024, session plans are done with more clarity and hope to spread awareness on mental health. Now, I am ready to implement those plans and wait to see the changes over the years. Also, I would like to share one more important insight for me working at Laal which is, People love to be connected and have a place where they can come and share their life journey and through Laal I am holding the space for them which takes lot of courage and empathetic understanding which again a great responsibility and opportunity for me.

Using Sociometry at Laal to facilitate the group:

Last year 2023 , in my weekly session plan I put sociometric activities as a warmup action to make the group members more engaged and bring their concentration back to the group. And in the report as well I wrote I conducted sociometric activities like Stepping into the circle, spectrogram etc.But I couldn’t get the opportunity to explain those techniques or share a little bit more on those. Yes, I know for those who are not orientated with the methods it's really difficult to make sense out of it. And that is why I want to take the opportunity to share one of the methods in detail below.

Sociometric activities help group members to stay connected to each other. Participants might feel isolated , disconnected with others in the family and when they are immigrants we all have some minor to severe level of feeling isolated/ displaced . By using sociometric exercises with groups I tried to help participants find a skillful way to find something common with others which promotes less isolation, create spontaneous bonds by doing something. Few exercise I used to lead the group is –

Step in circle …

Step in circle is the exercise which is led by me where groups stand in a circle and one person shares a statement , and if it is true for anyone and they want to show it to the group, they step in the circle and show . For example: if someone says I love mountains , or I love sea beaches .. if any other member also likes mountain or sea beaches they step in the circle. Another example is : who likes my older sister ? Or who , like me, is the middle child ?

These criteria or questions can vary depending on the group .. If it is a beginning group the questions / criterion are lighter and safer, and gradually when participants get used to the simple lighter criterion in practice, It can gradually choose those issues that have some intense emotions. For example, if the group is more stable and worked over a long time we can explore their deep issues like; who like me had lost parents? Who has been harassed on the street? Etc.

There are many sociometric exercises which help groups to explore their issues and get support from the group. I wanted to share about sociometric exercise because I felt everyone would love to know what techniques I use and how it takes place in our group? So here it is with one exercise in detail, and hopefully in future I will write about other techniques. Nonetheless, any sociometric exercise needs an experienced group leader with legit qualifications to use it to avoid any harm if not used appropriately.

In this digital era, how can we protect our mental health?

I am very much aware that the internet era/ digital era has contributed to mental health issues like anxiety, depression and affecting our health in many ways like sleep related issues, changes in appetite etc . And as a preventive measure I would like to spread the words to take some preventive actions as we know ‘Prevention is better than cure’.

So what can we do to support ourselves and each other in the face of negative news coverage/ over pouring social media content and online activities…

Let's choose one or multiple at a time to reduce stress, anxiety and depression which comes as a consequence of over using social media platforms and negative news ...

Identify your triggers. Take some time to think about what subjects stir symptoms of anxiety and depression. Some people may be more reactive to global conflict while others may feel more affected by racial injustice. Once you’ve figured out what has the strongest impact on you, you can limit your consumption of media with triggering content.

Try reading the news instead of watching videos, as studies show this can be less triggering, in part due to less disturbing imagery with written articles.

Limit your time with the news. Doomscrolling might help you feel more informed about how to protect yourself from the troubles of the world, but it ultimately does more harm than good. Aim for no more than 30 minutes per day if possible.

Plan an enjoyable activity after taking in the news, like engaging in a hobby, to decompress.

Take action by getting involved with a group that is working on the issues that you are most passionate about. This can help you feel empowered to make change instead of feeling helpless about the world around you. For example, our mental health support group is an example of that, also the workshop in 2024 for the staff will be an excellent addition to find a way to work in a group.

Be mindful of your sources. Sometimes what feels like news can be more based on opinion than facts, so where you get your news can make a big difference. Make sure the information you’re getting is accurate and provides a variety of perspectives.

Enhance optimism in your life by doing more of what brings you joy and satisfaction. Some examples include social activities, spiritual practices, physical movement, mindfulness, creative hobbies, journaling, and gratitude practices. Or, it could be something simple like spending time with a pet. It can feel hard to escape from the chaos of constant news coverage. While some groups are impacted more significantly, the long-term effects on all of us can include desensitization to such events, as well as a reduced ability to cope with the stressors of everyday life.

May is also known for being Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month with a focus on mental health during pregnancy and postpartum. Additionally, the 2nd Sunday of May is Mothers Day worldwide . We celebrate mothers day to honor motherhood, maternal bonds and to understand the importance of mothers' roles in our life and society .

Mental health of a mother can impact greatly on children in the early years of the development. The complex process of childbirth contributes a huge toll on womxn in general and after giving birth a new mother goes through hormonal changes which also affects mental health.To make those phases less critical and more healthy emotionally, Mothers have to make self care as one of their priority . In our Bangladeshi culture there are many expectations from mother role , which is not only limited to giving the birth to a child and taking care of the children but a womxn has components of mother role in all other roles she plays in her life. Womxn should play the role as a nurturer, caregiver to all the family members, they should be playing the role as a cook, cleaner, problem solver for others in the family. It's not enough for womxn to play one particular role and that makes a womxn fall into more mental health risk. All other roles that go inside the mother role create stress, anxiety, depression, and burn out or fatigue. For all mothers we should prioritize our roles and its demands and need to take time off for self development.


Laal Mental Health Updates:

  • Mental health support group on Thursdays, in total 25 workshops have been planned in 2024 .

  • Staff development sessions once in a month, 5 sessions in total.

  • Ongoing Interviews for data collections for mental health surveys planned for 2024.

Celebration and Actions Plans at Laal :

At Laal, I am planning to take actions to mark mental health days to promote awareness. I also want to launch activities and information, sharing information with all the members and staff. Activities will be wearing green colors to honor our mental health in the month of May, practicing self-affirmations every time we enter the Laal office, identifying specific emotions/feelings on a regular basis by daily check ins, doing arts and crafts, making posters on self- care and mental health, creating our own mental health and well-being calendar/happiness calendar to showcase how we can break the stigma related to mental health.

Important dates to remember and take actions in 2024 :

Mental health awareness is crucial year-round, but these observances provide focused opportunities to engage and educate.

Alcohol Awareness Month (April): Provide resources for addiction screening and awareness.

National Mental Health Awareness Month (May): Promote mental health awareness and well-being throughout the month.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (May): Highlight mental health resources for AAPI communities.

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month (May): Focus on mental health during pregnancy and postpartum.

National PTSD Awareness Month (June): Raise awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder.

Men’s Health Month (June): Address mental health concerns specific to men.

Pride Month (June): Explore the intersection of pride and mental health.

International Day of Yoga (June 21): Promote yoga for mental well-being.

Disability Pride Month (July): Advocate for mental health awareness within the disability community.

International Self-Care Day (July 24): Encourage self-care practices for mental health.

Back-to-School Season (August): Provide mental health resources for students returning to school1.

National Suicide Prevention Month (September): Raise awareness about suicide prevention and mental health.

World Mental Health Day (October 10): A global effort to prioritize mental health issues.


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