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Mental Health Awareness Week brings attention to self-care during the pandemic

Dr. Meghan Miller, a psychologist with Allina Health, has advice on how to manage your mental health amid the pandemic's isolation and stress.

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — 2020 is testing some people's mental health in ways many never expected. The past six months have been especially difficult for people already dealing with a diagnosed mental illness.

Oct. 4-10 is Mental Illness Awareness Week. The goal is to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness, highlight the need to make mental health a priority and to remind people that there are treatments if they need them, according to Dr. Meghan Miller, a psychologist with Allina Health

Dr. Miller added that it is important to remember that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

"Mental illness affects all of us directly or indirectly through family, friends or even co-workers," she said. "During this pandemic, everyone is recognizing the impact of mental health. We have to 'distance' from everything. We’re concerned about our physical health and we’re in the middle of a contentious election season. People are stressed out! We are operating like smartphones with no battery power."

With millions of Americans struggling with mental illness every year, Dr. Miller hopes that Mental Health Awareness Week can help bring attention to the ways the pandemic is exacerbating those struggles. 

She also hopes that it will encourage people to get the help they need. 

"Be honest with yourself," she said. "If there is a dark feeling that keeps coming up and you just can’t shake it, reach out to a mental health professional. If you notice a stark change in a family member or friend, don’t just ignore it. Ask them if they need help or gently advise them to reach out to a doctor. Don’t let stigmas or fear keep you and your loved ones from the available resources."