Author: Kaitlin Barbiere, M.Ed., BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst at Mindcolor in South Centennial, CO)
Greetings from Colorado!
It is that time of the year where the sun is finally more prevalent than the snow and clouds (does anyone else think it is SO hard to teach the seasons when you live in Colorado - there is snow on the ground in April!) Another reason that I love May is not only because of the weather - it is also Mental Health Awareness month!
First, I just wanted to share the CDC’s definition of mental health:
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. (CDC, June 28, 2021).
One of my biggest takeaways from that definition is that mental health is important ALL throughout life! Which is why it is important that we are aware of where our mental health is in regards to all it encompasses (emotional, psychological, and social well-being) because it is ever-changing.
What does it mean if I feel my mental health is not where it should be? The great news is that there are a multitude of free and accessible resources that address mental health and you are never alone!
According to the CDC, mental illnesses are illnesses characterized by the presence of mental pathology: that is, disturbances of mental functioning, analogous to disturbances of bodily functioning. Like physical illness the concept is, therefore, fundamentally evaluative and linked to issues of social control and regulation.
Below are statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) from 2022:
1 in 5 US adults experience mental illness each year
1 in 20 US adults experience serious mental illness each year
1 in 6 US youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year
50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24
A phenomenon that is extremely prevalent in the field of ABA (can anyone guess it…) is burnout. According to the World Health Organization, burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: 1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and 3) a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.
Thankfully, Mindcolor is an amazing company that is proactive in helping their team members stay on top of taking care of their mental health! Being proactive and having support to take away what could be added stressors is just one way to manage burn-out and mental health. Below are some examples of what Mindcolor does to support their team members in regards to mental and physical well-being:
Benefits & Wellness Initiatives: “Mindcolor understands the effect mental health and wellness have on team members' physical health and morale. In support of our team members, we are proud to offer a Mental Health & Wellness Reimbursement initiative. This allows team members to submit up to $25 per month (annual max. of $300) for reimbursement to offset the cost of mental and physical health and wellness activities for our team members (examples: Headspace, Calm and Cerebral memberships, Behavioral Health copays, Fitness Classes and memberships, Art and physical therapies)” Mindcolor Employee Handbook 2022-2023 (p. 32).
Health & Wellness Flex Days: 16 hours of separate PTO front loaded at the beginning of each year that can be used at any point for health and wellness purposes, to include mental health, at the team member’s discretion.
Below are some added resources to help spread awareness!
Behavior Analyst Burnout Assessment Tool- Defy Community, Sarah Trautman, BCBA, CEO & Co-founder
https://form.jotform.com/220296066045150 2. NAMI- https://nami.org/Advocacy/Advocate-for-Change
References: Advocate for change. NAMI. (n.d.). https://nami.org/Advocacy/Advocate-for-Change
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023, April 25). About mental health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm
Mindcolor Autism. (2023). 2022-2023 Mindcolor Autism Team Member Handbook.
News, D. (2019, May 28). Burn-out an “Occupational phenomenon”: International Classification of Diseases. World Health Organization.