May is Mental Health Awareness month, and there has never been a more urgent time to acknowledge the anxious and weary elephant that is standing in the room – because who among us hasn’t had our mental health tested having just come off the heels of a pandemic?
For a time, we didn’t know who was going to make it or not, we lost over a million irreplaceable friends, colleagues, and family members – and some of us, lost ourselves. I don’t think it’s fair to expect everyone to just continue as normal when the wounds haven’t healed yet.
Even before the pandemic, the LGBTQ community was facing a staggering mental health crisis, especially for our youth. According to the Trevor Project, for the last few years, the percentage of LGBTQ youth who have seriously considered suicide has consistently risen and is now at an all-time high – 45%.
As a gay man living with Schizophrenia, and someone who has survived four suicide attempts, I know what it’s like to be in a crisis and to have limited access to adequate mental health care. And I also know that I was pre-disposed to developing Schizophrenia due to the many traumatic events of my childhood and adolescence.
We may not still be in a pandemic, but we are all very much aware that this is still a state of emergency.
Kula for Karma is a national non-profit offering mindfulness based mental health care for our post pandemic world. They are endeavoring to provide solutions with the understanding that the LGBTQ community faces unique challenges to our mental health. Mindful meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises are being offered by the non-profit across the whole country virtually and in person.
Before I had any understanding of what Schizophrenia was or how to find the strength to keep living, I practiced meditation. Every morning and sometimes in the evening, I would sit cross-legged and focus on my breathing as a way to calm my mind. I would allow my mind and body to reach this state of calm and slowly resolve my anxiety and depression.
At the time, I was living in New York City – not a very quiet or slow-paced environment. But I discovered that the practice of meditation could offer me a form of therapy that I couldn’t otherwise afford. It’s possible, however, that I could have, if I had the courage to ask for help.
More is still needed if we are to destigmatize and normalize the conversation that surrounds mental health. Not only the government, but we citizens, too, need to help bolster those organizations which are offering meaningful solutions by which they bolster us. Kula for Karma is doing just that.
This month is a call for reflection and action. We must remind those most impacted by the pandemic that they are not alone, and maybe be willing to get in a few uncomfortable conversations until asking someone about their mental health becomes as commonplace as any other discussion.
And we must fund the few bastions of hope that are actively seeking to offer salve to our wounds. The pandemic drained the funds of many non-profits that were working in overdrive to support us during our time of crisis. Even their reserves ran dry. Now that the pandemic is behind us, we can’t just leave our friends to pick up the pieces.
The last line of defense for our young people should not be the government or any organization but it must be us, for if either succumbs to peril – then so too will our children. There is no aspect of person’s health that wouldn’t affect the longevity or happiness of that person. Thus, adequate mental health care leads to holistic health.
Many of us were going past our limitations for three years, and some have been for far longer. Be kind to yourself, rebuild those limitations and boundaries, and give yourself a little space to breathe. It’s ok not to be ok. You have the right to use all the time you need to take care of yourself.
If you or someone you know is struggling to find a safe space to talk about these issues, breathe, or just hit the pause button for a time – I encourage you not to go it alone. Because you are never alone. Discover the beautiful community that is being built by Kula for Karma at KulaforKarma.org, because you matter.
Jonathon McClellan is the award-winning author of “Messages of Hope” & “The Ant’s Palace.” Follow him at Facebook.com/newseedsofhope