Local senior citizens learn tips on how to be mindful of mental health

Mental and physical health play an extremely crucial role in overall quality of life. For local seniors, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, phobias, dementia, suicide ideation, and bipolar disorder are among the most prominent mental health concerns. According to the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors, approximately 20 percent of individuals 55 years and older suffer from some sort of mental health concern. Chair of Humboldt Connections and Program Director of the Frontier community Action Agency 9(FCAA), Alaine Nye, and Vice Chair of Humboldt Connections and Director of Juvenile Services, Pauline Salla, led the Guarding Your Physical and Mental Health During a Changing World lecture at the Pleasant Senior Center on May 10. The duo explained the significance of mental and physical health at any stage of life and provided some helpful tips on how to improve mental health with daily activities, which incidentally improves physical health. 

Salla said, “Without mental health wellness, our physical health struggles and without physical health wellness, our mental health struggles.”

According to Salla, loneliness, isolation, sickness, loss, changes in independence, feeling like a burden, cognitive changes, financial concerns, medication side effects, chronic pain, and malnutrition are all factors that can deteriorate mental health. 

Salla recommends seven ways in which to help improve and maintain mental health:

• Socialize as often as possible, even if it’s just 10 to 15 minutes.

• Volunteer or find a way to give back to the community.

• Play word games and cards to help exercise cognitive help.

• Practice plenty of physical activities, like going on walks.

• Practice artistic abilities, like painting, coloring, or other crafts.

• Care for a pet.

• See a therapist.

On a daily basis, Sala recommends:

• Practice deep breathing to foster inner composure.

• Focus on what you have the ability to change, not what can’t be changed.

• Listen to music. 

• Get enough sleep. 

• Eat a well-balanced diet. If food resources are not available, reach out to the FCAA to find out about their monthly food drives, which are the third Friday of the month from 12 to 2 p.m..

• Identify what triggers anxiety or depression. Activities such as therapy can help determine specific provocations. 

The mental and physical health of caregivers is also imperative to the health of those that they are taking care of. 

In order to maintain the mental health of caretakers, Salla recommends: 

• Find or create a support group.

• Write in a journal.

• Take time for yourself to exercise and get outside, be social, do something just for you, or practice deep breathing. 

• Find a hobby.

• Read.

• Create a team of people for support.

Nye explained that there are many different factors that can affect mental health and the FCAA helps individuals and families coordinate with other agencies in order to empower communities and ensure equal opportunities. Through funding from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Family Resources Center and Community Service Block Grant, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, and community donations, the FCAA is able to offer resources like:

• Welfare Application Assistance for TANF, SNAP, Medicaid, EAP, and  Safe Program; Document Assistance for birth certificates, identification and driver’s licenses;  Family Resource Center for resource referrals, case management; Volunteer Income Tax Assistance for free tax preparation assistance for low income households;  Social Security and Medicare processes assistance and questions; Housing Programs like ESG/ Rapid rehousing, HUD permanent supportive housing, and other programs for qualifying individuals; Food Commodities Distribution for those in need of food assistance; Virtual Welfare for those that would like to meet with case workers online;  Humboldt Connections Suicide Prevention Community Project for those that need sensitive and confidential care; Hope Tree Grief Support Group for children, teens and families that may be struggling with grief, hosted at the Rec. Center next to the Bode Howard Memorial Swimming Pool the 4th Tuesday of every month at 6 p.m.

 Nye said that all of these resources are available in order to help families and individuals in the community that may be struggling and to let the community know that there are people that want to listen and help when life gets tough. 

“It helps us to be in a good space to keep going for the people that love us,” said Nye.