Asblack-and-white-woman-girl-sitting I sat down to finish a draft of my next post for BeLiveStay Well, my mind wandered…I couldn’t stay focused or keep a thought in my head. While this isn’t uncommon for a mom with a toddler, this cognitive drift felt different…feels different…is different. I took my own advice and quietly reflected. I soon realized my distraction wasn’t fueled by sleep deprivation or a lack of interest. Rather, I became aware of how “undone” I feel about the recent deaths we’ve learned about – all tragic and all without answers.

As a way of honoring those who have passed, I am dedicating this blog post to them and whatever silent struggles ensnared their otherwise healthy lives. Further, I am dedicating this post to the families and friends of the lost loved ones. My heart aches for you and the pain you must process.

May is Mental Health Awareness month and, as such, let’s commit to spreading this message and learning about what this movement/effort entails.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “1 in 5 Americans will be affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime and every American is affected or impacted through their friends and family and can do something to help others” (2016).

A moment to process…1 in 5 Americans. This statistic begs the question: What is the global affect? In researching the World Health Organization (The WHO – Mental Health) statistics and resources (2016).

  • 350 million people are affected by depression (more women than men).
  • In low- and middle-income countries, between 76% and 85% of people suffering from all forms of mental disorders receive no treatment.
  • In high income countries, between 35%-50% of people suffering from all forms of mental disorders receive no treatment.
  • A compounding issue – the quality of care for those who do seek treatment.
  • Over 800,000 people commit suicide each year and for every suicide there are as many who attempt suicide each year.
  • Suicide is the second leading causing of death among 15-29 year-olds and 75% of suicides (globally) occur in low- and middle-income countries.

Another moment to process…I don’t know about all of you who are (hopefully) engaging in this post with me today, but I just felt my heart drop to my feet. I realized as I was researching, mental health (or lack thereof) isn’t just a global concern…it’s a global responsibility to overcome, prevent when possible, treat effectively, and educate ourselves about various mental disorders. 1 in 5 of us reading this have been affected (and that is just in America).

Thankfully, there are global initiatives taking place to address these concerns; however, like anything, it’s going to take time, resources, and commitment to scale that mountain.

The WHO endorsed the WHO’s Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020 in 2013 – a plan that includes 4 major objectives (quoted below).

  • More effective leadership & governance for mental health;
  • the provision for comprehensive, integrated mental health and social care services in community-based settings;
  • the implementation of strategies for promotion and prevention; and
  • strengthened information systems, evidence and research (WHO, 2016).

An important aspect of this plan is the definition of “mental health”.

“Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community” (WHO, 2016). In other words, much like health in general, mental health isn’t simply reduced to an absence of mental issues – it’s an integrative component to the bigger picture of total and optimal well-being. A healthy mind is necessary to be a healthy individual.

A call to action: Visit the following site and “take the pledge” to help NAMI replace the stigma of mental health with hope for improved treatments and, first and foremost, prevention. The Pledge

In the meantime, think about your community and what efforts are going on that relate to mental health awareness and treatment. What can you do? In your community? Office environment? On your campus? In your home?

The answers aren’t simple and deserve a thoughtful and contemplative approach. So, start small, reach out to a friend or offer to be a friend. My dad always told me to take the hand of the lost, befriend the lonely, and do my part to heal the broken. Let’s do one better – let’s befriend each other and offer support in times of struggle and celebration in times of success.

Until next time…Meet you at the Well.

Erin Nitschke

Passionate wife, mother, college educator, writer, blogger, and health and fitness professional.


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