Berny Unruh: May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Hays Daily News
Berny Unruh

What is mental health? The National Institute of Mental Health says “mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, act, make choices, and relate to others.” The last fourteen months has been hard on our mental health.

Elaine Johannes is the Kansas Health Foundation Distinguished Professor of Community Health at Kansas State University and has worked with our Family Development team of Extension Agents to study and learn more about the pandemic’s impact on children and families. Johannes states, “This pandemic has been filled with change, loss, some grief and some positive things. So, the meaning of what has happened really needs to be our focus now. The meaning helps us understand how, mentally, we move toward the recovery phase.” 

Interviews with Elaine Johannes can be found on K-State’s weekly radio program Sound Living, 

You can also visit the National Institute of Mental Health for some great resources: 

The most important thing on the list to improve your mental health is self-care. Everyone has a different level of care needed so take the time to figure out what you most need. Many of the suggestions were included on my list in my staying positive program.

  • Get regular exercise. A 20 or 30-minute walk will help clear your mind.
  • Eat regular, healthy meals and stay hydrated.
  • Make sure you are getting enough sleep.
  • Practice gratitude and stay positive.
  • Stay connected with friends and family.
  • Set goals and priorities. Decide what must be done and what can wait.
  • Schedule a regular time for a relaxing activity. Yoga or breathing exercises are good choices.

If you or someone you know are experiencing severe symptoms for more than two weeks, talk to a professional.  Search for the fact sheet on the National Institute of Mental Health website “Tips for Talking with your Health Care Provider”.       

Berny Unruh is the Family and Community Wellness Agent for the Cottonwood Extension District.  She can be reached at 785-628-9430 or at