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Caring For Yourself and Others this Mental Health Awareness Month

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Riverside chapter.

May is observed as Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. Mental health has long been, and in many communities continues to be, stigmatized and misunderstood, making awareness events even more crucial. Striving to prioritize mental health in a society that places it on the backburner takes conscious effort, but is possible. Here are some important ways to begin caring for both yourself and those around you.

Understand that mental health challenges affect everyone differently

Though you may not always understand why someone feels or acts a certain way, being accepting of their feelings can go a long way in helping them feel supported. When someone is going through a difficult time, they may become quieter or louder than normal, communicate less, or otherwise act differently from their usual self. It’s important to be non-judgmental about these changes as you help your loved one navigate them.

Intersectionality also plays a significant role in mental health. People can undergo vastly different experiences due to their gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and other factors. Those who come from different backgrounds may not be able to relate exactly, but mindfully listening to and learning from others’ experiences can help bridge these differences. 

Recognize the signs that someone may be struggling

Common symptoms of a mental health crisis include mood swings, self isolation, difficulty performing daily tasks, emotional outbursts, trouble concentrating, and excessive worrying or sadness. Though mental health issues present differently based on the individual and there is no one-size-fits-all for determining if someone is experiencing a crisis, if you recognize many common symptoms emerging in a person’s behavior, it can be a warning sign.

Consider what factors may be causing them to feel this way. They may be experiencing an external crisis in their personal life, which is causing their mental health to suffer. They might be distressed due to larger-scale issues on a community, national, or global level. It could also be due to a condition that has no discernible cause, as not all mental illnesses have a specific trigger or reason they occur. Regardless of potential reasons, if you are worried about someone, reach out to them. Allow them to share what they are comfortable with, and show that you are thinking of them without pressuring them to reciprocate.

make sure your own cup is full

It’s hard to be present for others if you’re not looking after your own needs. Compassion fatigue is a term describing the negative effects that excessively caring for others can have on a person.

Even if a loved one is struggling with their mental health, make sure you maintain your own wellbeing amidst this. If you do not have the energy to help them because of your own challenges, communicate this! It can be as simple as saying: “I care about you and want to be here for you, but I’m struggling myself and don’t have the capacity to be vented to right now. Can we have a raincheck on this conversation?”  

Additionally, know when to set firm boundaries. Although people sometimes lash out or hurt others because they are struggling, it is not your responsibility to bear the burden of someone else’s unhealthy coping mechanisms. You do not need to (and are not able to) fill the role of a professional therapist for someone you know personally. If someone is consistently hurting you, direct them towards the help they need but ultimately protect your own health and safety.

know where help can be found

Identify support systems around you. Do you have friends, family members, professors, mentors, or other figures in your life than you can reach out to? Even though it may seem intimidating to discuss vulnerable topics with people you know and see often, most will be very understanding and do their best to show up for you. “Positive friendships can be a protective factor for anxiety, depression, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress,” says Dr. Thema Bryant in this interview on how psychologists manage their own mental health.

If you are not able to, or do not wish to, reach out to people you personally know, there are still ways you can get support! Many universities offer mental health resources. UCR’s Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) program offers therapy, crisis support, and referrals to higher support. Many universities, community centers, and other public organizations also offer group counseling sessions for topics ranging from substance use, to mental disorders, to grief.

Seeking out help is not always easy, but it’s incredibly courageous and nothing to be afraid or ashamed of. There is no one correct way to manage mental health challenges or take care of yourself or others, but following at least one piece of advice that resonates with you can be the first step towards healing.


Omisha Sangani

UC Riverside '25

Omisha is an undergraduate student majoring in biology and planning to pursue medicine. She enjoys writing about wellness, life experiences, and academics. Outside of school and work, her interests include nature, fitness, art, and volunteering in her community.