Focus on mental health for a healthier you

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Healthy You: Activity, Minds, Bodies, Habits


Focus on mental health

Reach Out: Healthy You 2022 - Activity, Bodies, Minds, Habits


April 13, 2022 – It’s tempting to say everything is possible again in 2022. However, that may not be the way you feel right now. If you’re experiencing mental health issues or a higher level of stress than usual, you are not alone. The global pandemic, combined with other world events, has resulted in prolonged, high levels of stress for many people, according to the American Psychological Association.


You may be feeling an uncomfortable lack of balance or control in your life. For some, taking a shower or checking the mail is a big ask for the day. Others may be facing an immediate or impending crisis or trying to help loved ones who are struggling. On top of that, a feeling of shame or blame can keep you from taking the next step to find help. The good news is that we now have heightened awareness of the importance of mental health. Because we know more about mental health and well-being, there’s less stigma, more support. You’ve come to the right place.


In this article:

Sometimes we need support

Everyone’s mental health challenges are unique, but one common thread most of us share is that we all need help at various times in our lives. Let’s use a fictional Alaskan to talk about mental health struggles we might be experiencing and how to find help.


Meet Jennifer (#1 most popular girl baby name in 1982).


Jennifer just turned 40. During the pandemic, she was able to keep her accounting job but it’s been a struggle for going on two years now. She works from home and for part of the pandemic she also had to supervise her children’s schoolwork while they were learning from home. Her nine-year-old son is back in school now and doing okay although she finds she is short with him a lot and he doesn’t have enough to do after school. Her 12-year-old daughter, however, has continually grown more distant, spends much of her time alone in her room and is failing in school. Jennifer is deeply concerned about her but doesn’t know what is normal anymore.


Jennifer’s husband, Michael (the most popular boys baby name in 1982) suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving in the military and is not often “present” as a parenting partner. What’s more, both of their parents are starting to experience aging difficulties. Her husband’s mom has early signs of dementia, her mom has a new disability and her dad seems increasingly depressed. Jennifer and her husband have been paying for a house cleaner and food delivery to help their parents out but with prices rising they can no longer afford to help in that way. As an accountant, Jennifer feels ashamed she can’t even manage her family’s finances effectively.


Jennifer hasn’t shared all of this with anyone because of the stigma involved and not wanting to burden others and feels increasingly alone. Jennifer has turned to excess alcohol to cope. She knows she needs help with so many things but doesn’t know where to start.


Knowing where to start and how to find help can be difficult. Let’s acknowledge this. It’s not as simple as going to one website that provides you with all the resources with a single click or calling one number. Improving your mental health or finding support for loved ones is a journey, but one you can begin with small steps. In Jennifer’s case, she might begin one evening with a call to Careline Alaska. Or if she doesn’t want to use a call line, she might find a supportive friend and schedule time to go for a walk and talk.


Hopefully Jennifer might eventually engage in professional counseling and realize it is easier to do than she imagined, with mental health services covered by many insurance plans and increased options for virtual counseling. She might begin to see benefits in many areas of her life – perhaps she begins to reduce her alcohol intake and feels more in control.


Small steps lead to bigger ones and overall positive changes for our mental health.


What is Careline Alaska?

If you feel you need to talk with someone right now about your mental health concerns or distress, Careline Alaska is always there. Call toll-free anytime at 877-266-HELP (4357) or text 4HELP to 839863 3-11 pm Tuesday-Saturday. Careline is our statewide crisis intervention hotline as well as a tool to help connect Alaskans with mental health resources.


“You can call the Alaska Careline in a crisis, but you can also call if you’re grieving, having a hard time or if you're worried about someone else,” explained Susanna Marchuk, Executive Director of Careline Crisis Services. “Careline calls are free and confidential. The Alaska Careline is for anyone in crisis or who is just in need of a safe space and support.”


It's okay to ask for help - ALaska Careline

Where else can you go for help?

In addition to Careline, there are many organizations within Alaska that provide mental health support and many providers. Don’t know where to turn first? Our Healthy You in 2022 website provides up-to-date links to key resources that can help you begin your journey.


This quarter of the Healthy You 2022 campaign from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) is all about mental health. Throughout the year but especially from April through June, our social media channels (FacebookTwitter, and Instagram) will spotlight positive and direct action you can take to connect with both state-funded programs for behavioral health services and to trusted organizations such as NAMI Alaska (National Alliance on Mental Illness), Recover Alaska, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Behavioral Health, National Child Traumatic Stress Network, and more.


We’ll also provide small tips that may make a big difference for you or those you love. You may also see our new public service announcement focused on mental health:


Watch our Healthy You 2022 video

Healthy You 2022


Near the end of our three-month focus on mental health, we’ll share short, engaging videos featuring real Alaskans and how they are finding big and small ways to rise above whatever mental health challenges they may be facing. We also recognize that a person’s path to wellness is rarely a straight line. There will be ups and downs, with different challenges and solutions over a person’s lifetime.


Please consider sharing your story of how you thrive during these challenging times and tagging it #HealthyYou2022.


Our role at DHSS

The Division of Behavioral Health (DBH) within the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) is committed to improving the quality of life of Alaskans by providing the right service to the right person at the right time. Statewide, DHSS is working with a wide range of partners statewide to ensure Alaskans have access to a continuum of behavioral health services (mental health and substance use). This continuum ranges from prevention, screening and early intervention and outpatient services like counseling to acute intervention services (think of a paramedic visit to someone’s home) and more intensive psychiatric care including residential and inpatient services.


Just like our physical health, behavioral health needs range from short-term concerns that may be addressed relatively quickly to longer-term, chronic issues that might span years or a lifetime. The division’s goal is to work with behavioral health providers across the state to ensure Alaskans have the broad array of help they need.


Over the next few months, we’ll be sharing more stories about that work – so you can get to know us better and know better how to tap into help you may need.


Tap In: Healthy You - Activity, Minds, Bodies, Habits

Tracking mental health and providing support

One resource we want Alaskans to be aware of is Alaska’s comprehensive integrated mental health program plan (Comp Plan), Strengthening the System. Developed by DHSS in coordination with the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority (Trust) and released in 2019, the plan identifies priorities for the next five years to inform planning and funding decisions to meet the needs of the beneficiaries of the Trust.  Together, our organizations share a vision that Trust beneficiaries – Alaskans who experience mental illness, intellectual or developmental disabilities, or chronic alcoholism and drug dependence, or suffer from a traumatic brain injury or Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia – live meaningful lives while being supported in their home communities.


DHSS, in collaboration with the Trust, also releases an annual Scorecard that provides data and information on 30 key indicators. The Scorecard is a data measurement tool that examines the population health outcomes of Alaskans receiving care and services as described in Strengthening the System. The latest Scorecard released is for 2021, an undeniably difficult year. Check out “The Story Behind the Baseline,” which provides background on why each indicator is important, what works to improve outcomes, and the sources for the information.


“Mental health is not compartmentalized. It touches every part of our life, at all ages,” said Gennifer Moreau-Johnson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health. “It is no surprise that so many of us have felt negative mental health impacts during this prolonged set of challenges.  The thing people need to know is that help is available.”


While the first quarter of Healthy You 2022 focused on Physical Activity and adding more movement to your day, this next quarter will spotlight mental health – breaking down stigma, sharing small tips to improve mental health and highlighting resources to find support and help.


We hope you join us now through June as we discuss these topics and stay with us for upcoming quarters when we focus on “Bodies” (nutrition and sleep), and “Habits” (daily actions to keep you healthy overall). Healthy minds and bodies go together, and there is reason to hope you can feel better. Together, we can help and support one another to improve the health and well-being of all Alaskans.


2021 Alaska Mental Health Scorecard

State Mental Health Scorecard


These resources can assist you in finding counseling, treatment or other mental health support. Find more information and resources on our Healthy You 2022 microsite, on the Minds page.