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  • Writer's pictureBen R

Knee Deep in Mental Health

Updated: Nov 12, 2020

I've fully come to except this week that if I'm to become a speaker on mental health, I definitely need to manage self-care for myself!

After several weeks of "just existing" during this pandemic, I have delved deep into the mental health world during May, which is mental awareness month.

It began last week when I sat in on a webinar that had experts discussing stress and isolation with mental illness during this pandemic. As I wrote in one of my previous blogs, I knew it was time for me to work on pushing forward with the world of mental health. I had only intended to view additional series of webinars through the remainder of this month, but low and behold I had completely blown off an opportunity to build my portfolio towards speaking. Well, to be honest, I hadn't completely blown it off, I think I just was uncertain if I wanted to move forward with something.

So what was it you are probably asking at this point?

I'm not an idiot. I realize that it's highly unlikely that anyone will just start paying me to be a speaker without some credential behind my name. Right? I mean, it's possible, but I'm definitely not going to hold my breath!

If you have been following my blog, you will know that when I had originally started to volunteer with NAMI, I was focused on becoming a speaker. Of course I did a couple of presentations last month for them and gained some experience. Well, I had also around that time said that I was interested in taking a mental health first aid class and maybe becoming a peer support specialist.

I have to say it was a blessing in disguise, because I received an email this past Friday from one of the coordinators, asking me if I was still interested in signing up for a Zoom class this week for volunteer peer support specialists. Obviously, I had to make a quick decision that day. I asked for some information as I could not for the life of me find the occasional emails the coordinator had sent out previously. Given that I've had a lot of free time and truth be told, I have wanted to expand and learn during this gift of time, I signed up.

It's a five day class for 4 hours each day this week. It's been interesting so far. Now I know the word "interesting" has a lot of connotation to it, so first let me share with you my thoughts.

  1. Video Courses - As I've said before, I'm thankful for technology, especially given that we wouldn't even be able to do this class right now otherwise. What's annoying to me is it's very difficult to get a feel for everyone. Many of the participants I have never met before in person, so you already have that working against you. There's a lot of awkward pauses during discussions, as you have no idea that the video of someone who isn't up on your screen is about to unmute themselves to speak. You end up having peoples faces pop in and out all the time in front of you. Then you have a chat function where people can ask questions or share thoughts. Now I shouldn't be so critical as I often have been asking or writing statements myself on the chat. Still, when you are presenting, I would think seeing a flashing orange would be quite the distraction. We have had some presenters and you can see them literally lose their train of thought as they see words popping up on their screen. Again, I admit I'm guilty of being a typer during presentations. Not going to lie, it is kind of nice to have that feature. Last thing is 4 hours of video class is a lot to digest at once. Don't get me wrong, there's functions to mute/unmute and share or not share your video, so you can let out a loud fart or make a run to the bathroom. Still, it's just not the same as being in person.

  2. Presentation/Course - I have to say, I've been a little disappointed with the flow of the class so far. I have felt that we spend too much time on a certain topic. I get that as part of a class, NAMI is probably expected to provide a preset number of hours. Thing is, is that 80% of what we have been shown is common sense, at least it is to me. Therefore, I feel like I'm really not gaining any new insight so far. But I'm trying to accept the fact that everyone has different learning styles and some might have a learning disability. I would prefer we started to focus more on breakout sessions with a script, so that we could work on actual delivery and try to make it as close to a real-life situation as possible.

  3. Participant Insight - Since this is the first real class I've taken with other NAMI volunteers, it's been a bit interesting to see how some react to the topics presented and how it may appear to affect their own mental wellbeing. I've definitely seen signs of frustration. It's not my place to go into more detail. Truth is, like me, they are wanting to be a resource for others, so I give them mad props on that!

Overall, I'm looking at seeing this training class through to the end. It's all a journey for me and I can't see how becoming a peer support specialist wouldn't be beneficial as I move forward with my goal to be mental health advocate/speaker.

Odds and Ends

  • Minnesota's stay at home order ended on the 18th of this month. Now many more businesses can be opened, provided they show that they are taking the necessary measures of precautions. Some malls opened as well, as long as they are not at more than 50% capacity. I'm not hopeful that we won't see a dramatic spike in confirmed cases.

  • Our dog Fiona continues to be doing OK. Obviously, we are just taking it day by day at this point.

  • I don't think I mentioned on my last post, but we paid for a new puppy from a good breeder. Well, that breeder let us know last week that the mom had a litter of 7 pups - 3 boys, 4 girls. Are plan is to take a boy. The pups are expected to be ready for pickup around the 4th of July!

That's all for now. Hope this finds you in a mentally healthy place.

" You are Not Alone. Together, we are Stronger!"


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