I agreed to do a blog for May is Mental Health Month in early 2019. At the time I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about, but I knew I could count on inspiration from the work we, here at PRA, are doing every day to strengthen the services and systems that support recovery for those living with mental health conditions. As May approached, I was still at a loss for how I wanted to structure the blog, so I decided to go back to the basics and started at the source.
This first thing I discovered was that this year is a special one for this particular recognition. Mental Health Awareness Month was started in May 1949 by Mental Health America (MHA), then known as the National Association for Mental Health (see wikipedia.com). MHA is celebrating 70 years of raising awareness and reducing stigma through media, local events, and screenings across the country. Pretty impressive.
Equally impressive is that MHA promotes a different theme or focus for its May is Mental Health Month efforts each year, and creates a toolkit based on that theme that is available for download from their website. Last year’s theme was Fitness #4Mind4Body, which related to the connection between physical and mental health. For 2019, the same hashtag is being used, but the focus is on social connectedness, recreation/leisure time, spirituality, and animal companionship. And, this is where I received my inspiration!
I was very excited to see that this year’s May is Mental Health Month awareness topics directly relate to activities that PRA promotes through our overarching workplace wellness efforts, as well as our work in the area of well-being. So, I thought I’d share some examples:
PRA promotes social connectedness among staff in several ways, including the strategy that all new employees are assigned a “lunch buddy” within their first few days on the job. This person is an employee with a similar role within the company who can not only answer questions about the company and their position within it but also provide an instant connection to someone outside of their project or area. PRA also hosts quarterly luncheons that are planned by a rotating committee where all employees gather in the conference room for a shared lunch. This regularly scheduled event provides a venue where staff from across PRA are able to eat together and socialize with those they don’t see or talk to every day. And finally, PRA recently released a podcast, as part of our 8-Dimensions of Wellness series, where employees shared a variety of activities that help them maintain their work-life balance through social connectedness.
Recreation and Leisure Time
This is an easy one. PRA has an activities committee that organizes several events annually that get us out of the office and doing something fun and/or relaxing. We hold an annual PRA summer picnic, which we are pairing with the PRA Olympics this year to add a little friendly competition to our relaxing afternoon in the park. A couple of other things on the calendar for this year include a tour of the NYS Capitol, a Tri-City Valley Cats baseball game, and fall pumpkin carving.
PRA recently began supporting an opportunity for lunchtime meditation. This is a wonderful new offering with one of our generous staff members from our Communications Team, volunteering her time to provide guided meditation for 5-20 minutes each day for those interested. In addition, PRA also released a podcast as part of the 8-Dimensions of Wellness series on Spiritual Wellness, talking to several individuals about how their focus on spiritual wellness supports their recovery.
MHA described this focus as relating both therapy animals and pets. We currently don’t have any therapy animals onsite (or on staff), but once a year we do celebrate “Bring Your Dog to Work Day.” For the last 3 years on June 21st, PRA employees have had the opportunity to bring their canine friends to work. There is a meet and greet complete with goodie bags, a “barking lot” parade with photo op and a walk on the rail trail. Lots of tail wagging fun! Here are a couple of cute pics of our furry friends!
Writing this blog allowed me not only to consider the impressive history of May is Mental Health Month but to also reflect on how the culture of PRA and the work we do supports mental health awareness all year round!