Starting A Conversation Around Mental Health
This is Part 1 of a two-part interview on mental health with Dr. Liz.
Mental health has been an important topic for me as a new mom. “Me time” for me looks a lot different these days, and as a working mom, I take mental health days to nourish myself. However, mental health isn’t the most natural or easiest of conversations to broach with new moms amidst chatter of sleep training, eating (or the lack thereof), and poop.
I wanted to open up this conversation and create a space for connection, support, and empathy. I also wanted to deepen my knowledge and create sustainable strategies to build mental health. So I turned to my long-time friend, Dr. Liz, former psychiatrist and now co-founder and chief clinical officer of Cloud 9, a mental healthcare tech company.
How do you define mental health?
It’s physical health for the brain.
You do a lot to take care of how you feel physically so you can work effectively, learn well, and be a good mom/spouse/daughter/sister/employee. You need to find ways to optimize your physical health to play your role. Mental health requires the same focus to help you play your role. It requires you to mind your mental health every day. As a result, it’s a constant practice. We’re always learning about new ways to take care of our mental health just like we’re continuing to learn about our physical health.
In your opinion, what problems are we as a community facing regarding the topic of mental health?
There’s a stigma around mental health.
A large part of our greater community in this country doesn’t understand what mental health is and what we need to do to take care of our mental health.
How do you educate others on mental health?
Show people it doesn’t mean you’re weak or not enough if you’re tending to your mental health.
Another misunderstanding is that it only happens to other people:
Or some believe you must have a mental illness to proactively address your mental health. It’s like treating a symptom once you’re already sick versus taking care of your health to prevent sickness.
What do you recommend to proactively address mental health (for parents and kids)?
For kids, create the building blocks to nurture mental health. Build strong relationships. Help your child develop a good sense of self esteem. Let him or her know their feelings are valid and that you listen and respect their feelings. Create a positive, safe home environment. Teach them how to problem-solve in order to foster resiliency, a trail positively correlated with mental health.
Playtime is also critical to mental health. All of these are building blocks for mental health.
For adults, it’s important to build strong, intimate relationships. Build your own sense of self worth and self esteem. Know how to recognize and express your feelings. Surround yourself with people who can respect your feelings. As an adult, you decide who is an intimate part of your life. Create a positive home environment. Foster your own sense of resiliency. Figure out ways o feel like you’re in control of your life. And of course, play time is important for adults too! Get a hobby. Forget about work and your role for a bit, have fun, and let go.
Any final advice you’d like to share?
Taking care of our mental health and teaching our kids to take care of their mental health should be fun. There are things we’ll learn, practice, and build upon. We pay a personal trainer to teach us to take better care of ourselves. We pay nutritionists to teach us what and how to eat. We should be able to treat mental health the same way and leverage professionals and not feel like we should already know how to do this. There is power in having this conversation and learning how to take care of ourselves.
To quote the World Health Organization,“There is no health without mental health.”
One of the best ways to help your kids build good mental health is to set an example by taking care of your own mental health as an adult and parent!
Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge, tips, and advice Dr. Liz!
What are your real tips and tricks for building and maintaining mental health? I’d love to hear!
Dr. Liz’s Bio:
Elizabeth Truong, MD is a licensed psychiatrist and psychotherapist with 8 years of clinical experience. She built a private practice in Austin before becoming co-founder and chief clinical officer of Cloud 9. Cloud 9 is a technology company that provides mental healthcare to those who need it most, before they land in jails, ERs, or the streets.