Three months into my term as Mayor, Covid-19 started impacting our community. From the beginning, it was very clear my original plans would be altered as our priorities changed. Covid-19 impacted our employees and every community member one way or another, and it is important we all take time to recognize the stress it created and find time in our own ways to slow down and relax a little. Too often this past year, we all have been asked to make big sacrifices at times of great uncertainty, and that can take its toll.
I want to take a moment to thank all of those within our community who have been, and continue to be on the front lines of this ongoing pandemic. This includes teachers, janitors, healthcare workers, store clerks, first responders, and many others. As we have all learned, working through a pandemic can be physically, emotionally, mentally demanding, and exhausting.
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and during this last year life has had its ups and downs for many in our community. The pandemic has negatively affected many people’s mental health and created new barriers for those already suffering from mental illness. But it is not just the pandemic. Throughout life, and within our networks, the day to day efforts we all go through can create mental health struggles, which we shouldn’t ignore or brush aside. The pressures of public health measures like face masks and social distancing (which thankfully are subsiding) have created isolation, loneliness, job loss or worse.
But I hope you all see, like me, the sun beginning to shine in these summer months. With people being able to get back out into the community, I can feel the buzz of excitement and joy this brings. During National Mental Health Awareness Month, it is important we recognize all those suffering from mental illnesses and bring more awareness to this ever-growing discussion. If we are able to talk with one another in our community, we can help heal the past year of challenges. We can hear from one another what challenges we all faced, and grow together as a community. I ask you take the time to talk to a teacher, first responder or healthcare worker. Reach out to your neighbors and friends. Check in on someone you haven’t seen in a while. I believe we as a community only get stronger by staying connected in this crucial time.
One group that is dear to me is our youth; they are our future. I ask each of you to stay connected with them and help our youth see what is good in our community. I am so proud of the Meridian Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council (MYAC), who wanted to further this conversation around mental health awareness and invited community members to join a virtual event. MYAC organized MYAC Talks: Mental Health as a forum where five mental health professionals discussed the realities of living with anxiety and depression, and strategies for attaining mental health and wellness. MYAC members provided discussion points and asked questions to break the negative stigma that can come with discussing mental health. It was a great reminder for me to ensure my mental health is a priority in my life. You can find the MYAC discussion HERE as one example of the great work our young leaders are doing to make positive changes for the future of Meridian.
If you are looking to learn more about Mental Health Awareness and the challenges millions of Americans are facing, I encourage you to visit Mental Health America. Here you can find tools and information to recognize signs and connect people with resources if needed. While the last 15 months have been a trying time for many, together with education and compassion we can all be part of the solution moving forward.