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Mental health in a changing world

For the past 75 years, the United States has recognized May as Mental Health Awareness Month. This initiative was started in 1949 – in a very different world than we live in today. It is fitting, then, that this year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Month is “Where to Start: Mental Health in a Changing World.”

Mental health challenges are common. “About half of Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition sometime in their lives,” and anyone can face challenges that impact their mental health and wellbeing, regardless of diagnosis.

There are many experiences that impact mental health, such as trauma, grief, and loneliness. And, as we become more globally connected, we are bombarded with information about the world’s problems, which are often outside of our direct experience or control.

Having the internet in your pocket increases exposure to news coverage, which is often negative. Seeing graphic or upsetting images can trigger your body’s “fight or flight” response, which dumps adrenaline and cortisol into your bloodstream – stress. Prolonged levels of high stress can cause serious physical and mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression, heart disease, and stroke.

READ: The Complex Relationship Between Chronic Disease and Mental Health


You are more likely to experience stress when the news is personally relevant to you or if you share an identity with someone involved. “Because the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities are more often targets of violence and hate crimes, the mental health of people from these communities is impacted more severely by the news.”

This global connection contributes to decreased mental health in other ways. We are always “reachable,” which can lead to burnout. Social media use can cause FOMO (anxiety triggered by the fear of being excluded), reduced self-esteem, and increased levels of dissatisfaction.

So, what can we do when it feels like we have the weight of the world on our shoulders?


Work on your relationship with technology. Set tech boundaries and cut back on screen time.

Create a personalized “coping menu.” Take time to figure out what helps you manage stress and keep a list for easy reference when you’re feeling out-of-sorts.

Ask for help when you need it. Whether you turn to friends and family or seek help from a mental health professional, know when you’ve hit your limit and reach out.

After all, we’re all figuring out how to manage our mental health in this ever-changing world, so we might as well do it together!


All quoted material in this article was taken from the Mental Health America 2024 Mental Health Month toolkit. You can find more information, helpful worksheets, and a month-long “Where to Start” mental health tips calendar at mhanational.org/may.


If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health challenges, professional help is available. Valeo’s Crisis Center, 400 SW Oakley Avenue in Topeka, is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for walk-in mental health emergencies. In case of a behavioral health crisis, contact 988 or the Valeo 24-Hour Crisis Line at 785-234-3300.

by Mikki Burcher, Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Valeo Behavioral Health Care


Valeo Behavioral Health Care



Crisis Services           

400 SW Oakley, Topeka, KS  66606

24 Hour Crisis Line: 785-234-3300


National Suicide Prevention Life Line

Call or text 988 anytime 24/7/365


Shawnee County Suicide Prevention Coalition



Family Service and Guidance Center  (18 and under)

325 SW Frazier, Topeka, KS  66606

24 Hour Crisis Number: 785-232-5005


Healing after Loss to Suicide Group  (HeALS)

Sandy Reams – Group Facilitator