Women In Action | Mental Health Monthly
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Welcome to Mental Health Monthly!

On behalf of WIA and all those who offer counseling and psychological services within this organization, we’d like to welcome you to our new blog. Each month we will invite you to read along as we post about various mental health topics particular to Big Sky and Montana.

March 2020

Managing Stress and Anxiety: COVID-19 Special Blog

” The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may be stressful for people. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Coping with stress will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger” (CDC).

People who may have a harder time with the stress of this crisis include: people over 60 and immuno-compromised people who are at a higher risk for COVID-19, children and teens, first responders, healthcare providers and people with mental health conditions

Taking care of yourself, friends and family can help coping with stress and make our community stronger. Pay close attention to yourself and your loved ones for changes in sleep or eating patterns, increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs, and difficulty sleeping or concentrating

How to support yourself

  • take breaks from social media and news; this is very important, constantly hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be more upsetting than you think
  • Continue to take care of your body: go on walks and hikes, dedicate time to meditate or practice yoga, try to cook well-balanced meals and avoid alcohol and drugs
  • Still connect with other, take time to FaceTime and call loved ones who live further away

How to support your children

  • Take time to talk with your child or teen about the COVID-19 outbreak in a way that they can understand
  • Limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media.
  • Try to keep up with regular routines, continue to wake up early, do chores and start any online classes or homework if schools are closed. Create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities.
  • Be a role model.  Take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat well. Connect with your friends and family members.

How to support people who have been released from quarantine

  • Don’t place blame or express fear of contracting the disease from someone who has been determined not to be contagious after coming out of quarantine
  • Look out of any emotional or mental health changes
  • Allow time for them to recover from the mixed emotions of quarantine

How to support responders

  • Acknowledge that secondary traumatic stress (STS) can impact anyone helping families after a traumatic event
  • Learn the symptoms of STS which include fatigue, illness, fear, withdrawal, guilt.
  • Think of some personal self-care activities that you and your family can do
  • Take a break from social media and media coverage of COVID-19
  • Ask for help! Feeling overwhelmed or concerned about COVID-19 is perfectly normal.

For more information check out the CDC’s website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html

February 2020

5 Ways to Fight the Stigma of Mental Illness

A stigma is when someone views someone else in a negative way, believing that person to have disadvantageous characteristics 6. This is especially true of seeking help for mental health in small towns. Here in Big Sky, we pride ourselves on the hard-working culture, which can often translate into “pushing through” uncomfortable emotions and difficult experiences. One of the most common barriers to seeking help in rural areas is the thought that “I should not need help1. A 2002 study 2 described three main misguided beliefs about those with mental illnesses, which contribute to the stigma of mental illnesses:

1. “Persons with severe mental illness should be feared and, therefore, be kept out of most communities”

Truth: “People with a mental health issue are generally nonviolent. In fact, only 3-5% of violent acts can be attributed to people with a serious mental illness.”8,9

2. “Persons with severe mental illness are irresponsible, so life decisions should be made by others”

Truth: “People with mental health problems are just as productive as other employees” and when employees receive effective treatment, it can result in increased productivity.8

3. “Persons with severe mental illness are childlike and need to be cared for”

Truth: “70-90% of people who seek proper treatment for mental health disorders witness a significant reduction in symptoms.”9

Perpetuating these stigmas can lead to withholding help and avoidance 2. As such, many people with mental illnesses, or even those unsure of how to cope with symptoms like depression and anxiety, often fear discrimination, bullying, loss of job opportunities, or other negative consequences if they ask others for help. Thus, the stigma against mental health can in turn cause those needing help to avoid seeking it for fear of being treated or viewed negatively. This can also lead to an internalization of a “self-stigma,” which perpetuates thoughts such as “I should not need help”3. Particularly in small towns, this fear can be exacerbated when attitudes and beliefs seem to spread so quickly. Here are five ways, put together from different blogs and articles online 4,5,6,7, in which you can help fight the stigma against mental illnesses and provide support for strangers and friends alike who may be hesitant to reach out in your community:

1. Educate yourself and others

Understanding anxiety, depression, and other manifestations of mental illnesses, can help yourself and others to normalize these feelings and experiences. Being part of the movement of distributing correct information can combat the negatively held beliefs about mental illnesses.

Here are some great sites to peruse: Mental health resources for adolescents and MentalHealth.gov

2. Be conscious of language

Without realizing it, the language we use often perpetuates stigmas, particularly when we casually label those with mental illnesses as “crazy” or “insane.” Be thoughtful and encourage others to use language that includes rather than excludes people.

3. Address your self-stigmas 3

What thoughts do you have of yourself when you experience anxiety, depression, shame or guilt? Do you speak kindly to yourself when you are experiencing uncomfortable emotions? Understanding how we view ourselves helps us to understand how we view others and why.

4. Be supportive

While many people may not reach out if they are having difficulties, they may be fighting an internal struggle. Even if you are unsure of how to help others, simply lending an ear and being supportive can be extremely helpful5.

5. Choose empowerment

Talking openly about mental health, perhaps even sharing your own story if you feel safe to do so, and validating others’ experiences all help to empower those with struggles to speak out and ask for help3.

To read more about the things you can do to fight the stigma of mental illness, and to find more information on why these five ways can help, check out these articles:





If you are in crisis or need to speak to someone immediately, please call 911, reach out to the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or the Help Center in Bozeman at 406-586-3333.


1. Brenes, G. A., Danhauer, S. C., Lyles, M. F., Hogan, P. E., & Miller, M. E. (2015). Barriers to mental health treatment in rural older adults. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry23(11), 1172-1178.

2. Corrigan, P. W., & Watson, A. C. (2002). Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness. World psychiatry1(1), 16.

3. Corrigan, P. W., & Rao, D. (2012). On the self-stigma of mental illness: Stages, disclosure, and strategies for change. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry57(8), 464-469.

4. Greenstein, L. (2017). How you can stop mental illness stigma. Retrieved from < https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/May-2017/How-You-Can-Stop-Mental-Illness-Stigma>

5. Klarić, M., & Lovrić, S. (2017). Methods to fight mental illness stigma. Psychiatr Danub29, 910-917.

6. Mayo Clinic Staff (2017). Mental health: Overcoming the stigma of mental illness. Retrieved from <https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/in-depth/mental-health/art-20046477>

7. Mercado, M. (2017). 7 Ways to help fight mental health stigma. Retrieved from < https://www.bustle.com/p/7-ways-to-help-fight-mental-health-stigma-55399>

8. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2017). Mental Health Myths and Facts. Retrieved from <https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/mental-health-myths-facts>

9. Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, USC. (2020). 15 Mental health facts you should know. Retrieved from <https://dworakpeck.usc.edu/news/15-mental-health-facts-you-should-know>

December 2019

The “Winter Depression” Season

The winter season welcomes many joys like beautiful landscape and long-awaited skiing, but it also seems to welcome seasonal blues. The seasonal blues have a wide spectrum of signs and symptoms related to depression, but experiencing these signs or symptoms do not always indicate that someone has depression. It is normal to experience a lack of energy, social disconnection, and emotional dysregulation during this hectic time of year. However, for some, the winter seems to bring a dark cloud of depression for them, what is diagnostically referred to as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). 

The National Institute of Mental Health (2016) describes signs and symptoms of SAD as loss of appetite, sleep, energy, and interest in once enjoyed activities, as well as feelings or thoughts of depression, hopelessness, or worthlessness. Other common signs and symptoms are social withdrawal and/or isolation, with accompanying feelings of loneliness. Many factors play into seasonal depression, such as cold weather that affects both physical bodies and environments, lack of sunlight, holiday and/or family pressures, and more specifically for the Big Sky area, community/work transitions and pressures (National Institute of Mental Health, 2016). With that being said, not everyone who experiences seasonal mood changes has SAD. We are all affected by the seasonal cycles of winter and the changes it brings. It is common to experience a natural lull in mood during the dark winter months. What differentiates SAD from the more commonly experienced winter blues is severity of symptoms and the recurring cycle of seasonal depression for two or more consecutive years (Robinson, Shubin, & Segal, 2019). Other types of depression, such as major depressive disorder and persistent depressive disorder, present with similar signs and symptoms but can occur outside of seasonal changes. Knowing how seasonal blues and SAD present and how it develops is helpful, but what is arguably most important to know is how to take care of yourself during the seasonal blues and/or SAD. 

So, have you noticed recent mood changes? If so, refer to the list below for recommendations of how to better cope with seasonal changes. 

  • Spend time with family/friends 
  • Find enjoyable activities
  • Explore the outdoors – access to natural light 
  • Get active in your community 
  • Schedule self-care into your routine 
  • Maintain a consistent sleep schedule 
  • Exercise
  • Eat Healthy 
  • If concerned about SAD, check in with your primary care doctor who may refer: 
    • Mental health counseling and/or other services 
    • Medication/Vitamins 
    • Light therapy 

(National Institute of Mental Health, 2016; Robinson, Shubin, & Segal, 2019)

If you have any concern for your mental health during the winter months, or anytime during the rest of the year, contact a mental health professional for additional support. We are here to help!

Helpful web sources

National Institute of Mental Health: Depression Booklet

HelpGuide SAD

Mayo Clinic Diagnostic Page

New York Times: How to Cope With Seasonal Affective Disorder

If you are in crisis or need to speak to someone immediately, please call 911, reach out to the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or the Help Center in Bozeman at 406-586-3333.


National Institute of Mental Health. (2016). Seasonal Affective Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml

Robinson, L., Shubin, J. & Segal, J. (2019). Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad.htm 


We’d like to begin by sharing some definitions of wellness and mental health. How do you define ‘wellness’? Wellness to you might mean getting to spend time with your friends and family. Perhaps you feel well when you put in a hard day’s work and can pay all of your bills. Or maybe you feel well when you’re able to make time to get on the mountain. You might feel balanced when you take some time to be alone. Everyone’s definition of wellness will be just a little different, based on factors such as personality, culture, genetics, stress, and life experiences.

Mental health is a combination of the way we think, what we feel, and how we behave, which varies from person to person. Each of these elements can affect the other to produce changes in our psychological health. Increased stress may cause fluctuations to your sleep and eating patterns. Emotional difficulties in school or at work can result in less engagement with family members. Speaking negatively to ourselves in turn can affect how we feel about ourselves. Depression may even cause physiological pain, even disturbances in our digestion.

Having a good understanding of how you, and those close to you, feel balanced and well can be particularly helpful in detecting changes in mental health. Our goal for this new blog is to provide you with more information on the factors that affect mental health as well as tips and resources that may help you or someone you love.

Take a moment to look at the Wellness Wheel from the National Wellness Institute http://(www.nationalwellness.org). How well do you feel you are doing in each of these areas? Are there one or two areas on which you would like to work in order to feel more balanced? Is there anyone you’d like to share the Wheel with?

Crisis Hotline

If you are in crisis or need to speak to someone immediately, please call 911, reach out to the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or the Help Center in Bozeman at 406-586-3333.