Commentary – We all have mental health

Pearl Lorentzen

Five out of five people have mental health. Every single one of us have emotions, a mind, and a soul [although not everyone agrees what this looks like].

How do we maintain positive mental health so that we can thrive?

I am in the middle of training to be the volunteer Rural Mental Health Project ‘animator’ for Slave Lake. High Prairie already has one. Someone in Smith has signed up for the program. There is no community too small to be part of the program.

Animator is from movie animation. Taking a stationary picture and bringing it to life.

I like to think of an animator as being the spark that bought Frankenstein’s monster back to life. I hope that I can love the ‘monster’ enough that it doesn’t float alone into the Arctic.

The goal of the project is to grow and maintain a mentally healthy community from within. This is why animators need to live in the community.

One positive which has come out of the COVID-19 pandemic is people seem more willing to talk about mental health. Both about struggles and the things they do to maintain or enhance positive mental health or wellness.

Wellness is a broader term, but anything that we do which increases our sense of well-being improves our mental health. This can include exercise [which can be a bit difficult at the moment], healthy eating, spending time with people [virtually at the moment], and spending time alone.

Other things that impact wellness are housing, food, and transportation. Anything that impacts our lives, impacts our wellness.

I have no other mental health training. I am just a community member who is aware of my own and other people’s mental health.

Before training, I was 90 per cent excited and 10 per cent terrified. As I delved in, the terror left. A combination of ever changing emotions, mostly positive, but occasionally negative, replaced it.

I’m training myself to ask what assets exist, instead of what problems need fixed. This is called an asset led approach to change [or something similar]. It is a revolutionary shift in mentality.

This also leads to gratitude. I don’t do it everyday, but I’ve started incorporating a gratitude list into my journal.

I encourage everyone to think of two or three things they are thankful for.

If that was easy, think of a few more. If it was hard, start small. Did you eat today? Etc, etc.

One of the things I am grateful for is I am not alone in this journey toward a mentally healthy community. In the last few weeks, I have spoken with many individuals who are interested in being involved. As an animator [spark], I can’t and am not supposed to do everything by myself. One of the goals is to build a local collective [whatever form that ends up looking like] of interested individuals and organizations. Since every person has mental health, any person can be involved in the collective.

I’m also learning to work in a mentally healthy and sustainable way. It’s not about projects and instant results. I keep asking myself how can I maintain and increase balance and harmony between my many roles and do the work I have chosen in a mentally healthy way. I have burned out in the past, but am hopeful that I will learn how to thrive and engage with others without overdoing it.

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