Mental illness is real. If the recent events in the media haven’t caught your attention over the past 5 to 10 years, please recognize that there are an estimated 54 million Americans who are affected by mental illness. We must address its effects on our families, communities and nation. Those affected are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, neighbors and friends. It is imperative that society engages in the conversation about mental illness and how it affects those who experience disturbances in their thoughts or behaviors. It is important that families talk about the reality of mental illness, no longer sweeping it under the rug for fear of the stigma, leaving our loved ones to suffer in silence or pretend that the mood swings and the voices in their head aren’t real.
For those who are experiencing mental illness, there is help. There are mental health professionals and agencies in just about every community across the country. There are family members, clergy and support groups to help individuals cope with mental illness. There is hope that more resources will become available as society becomes more knowledgeable and accepting of mental illness. There is also hope that our nations’ leaders will implement a plan to provide support and care to those in need. We need every member of our nation to recognize the warning signs of mental illness, know how to access the appropriate resources and how to cope. Let’s do our part to support and care for those affected by mental illness.
In my quest to teach character, I’m challenged daily to live with integrity. Since I started my youth program, Maximizing Character, it seems that my own habits are now in the spotlight. I’ve had to take inventory of my own life so that I’m careful to model strong character to my own children and students. I’ve noticed areas in my life that definitely need some tweaking. Taking time out of my schedule to volunteer my time or give to a cause instead of simply talking about it is one small step I’ve had to take in an effort to reorder my life and develop my own character. Another challenge I realized was that I have a tendency to neglect my health by eating too many sweets, making excuses for not exercising and slacking on the sleep…so much for practicing what I preach to the kids.
One of the things that I focus on in my home and program is connecting one’s character to their health and wellness. I teach my students that part of being a responsible person is taking care of their bodies, eating right, exercising, getting plenty of rest and avoiding the use of drugs and alcohol. I explain to them that a healthy lifestyle helps not only their physical but also mental health and that a healthy lifestyle wards off destructive diseases while boosting one’s energy and overall attitude and mental health. Despite my knowledge of the benefits of exercise and a healthy lifestyle and the advantage of having a husband who is a personal trainer, I find it challenging for me to go walking or to visit the gym just a few days a week to prevent illnesses that plague my family such as diabetes and high blood pressure or to simply boost my energy levels. As a result of my poor choices (and hypocrisy) I have experienced a life full of “F’s”…Fatigue, Frustration, Fatty Foods and just plain Fed Up.
I recently challenged myself to refocus and to work towards getting this area of my life back in balance. I recognize that a healthy lifestyle is essential for the life I want to live…stress-free and energized to learn and to work effectively. So I’ll keep you posted on my progress from time to time. My hope is that I continue to be a good role model for my children and others, having a teachable spirit and maximizing my own character as I pursue my passion to promote good character and healthy lifestyles.