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Information below provided by Clinical Psychology Doctoral Students from the Relationship Aggression and Addictive Disorders (RAAD) Lab at University of Tennessee.




JANUARY 12, 2022

Mental Wellness in the New Year
By Chloe Robb

January marks the start of another year, and many people are making resolutions to improve themselves. With all the stress of the past few years, it’s a great time to invest in your mental health. A good way to do this is to form some healthy habits that will not only improve your mental health but also your physical wellbeing. 

Sleep hygiene is important for both physical and mental health. Sleep deprivation can lead to a variety of mental health problems including increases in anxiety, depression, paranoia, feelings of loneliness, and suicidal thoughts. Getting an adequate amount of sleep gives us energy and a better ability to concentrate [1]. Diet also plays an important role in mental health. Diets high in fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, and unprocessed grain have been found to help regulate our serotonin and in turn improve important bodily functions like our mood and sleep. Regular exercise can also greatly improve mental health and has been shown to relieve stress, improve sleep and overall mood, and reduce feelings of depression and anxiety [2]. The Mayo Clinic recommends 25 minutes of vigorous exercise three times a week to improve your overall health. Taking regular walks and gentle yoga are also great ways to incorporate movement and improve mental health. 

Once these healthy habits are started, it can be difficult to sustain them. According to Forbes, 80% of New Years resolutions are abandoned by February. However, there are lots of strategies that you can use to give yourself a better chance at keeping up the good work. First, you can be mindful of current unhealthy habits you may have that can hinder your progress. Next, you can also write out a plan with realistic goals and ways to achieve them. You can also keep track of your progress online or in a journal so you can see how much you’ve improved. When you’re feeling discouraged, reminding yourself about the future and all the benefits to your mental and physical health that these habits will bring can be helpful [3]. Listed below are some resources that can provide additional information on the healthy habits mentioned and the benefits on mental health.

Caring for Your Mental Health (NIMH): https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/caring-for-your-mental-health 
[1] Source: https://hbr.org/2022/04/building-healthy-habits-when-youre-truly-exhausted
[2] Source: https://www.usu.edu/today/story/healthy-habits-to-improve-mental-health 
[3] Source: https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2018/03/creating-healthy-habits

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DECEMBER 7, 2022

KnoxWell Holiday Blog Post
By Emmie Meyers


Over 53 million Americans provide significant care for family and friends. Of those 53 million, 27 percent provide support for someone with a mental illness. Caring for a family member can have a huge impact on a person’s life and take a toll on the caregiver's mental health. It is particularly important for caregivers to take time for themselves in these busy weeks in December with the additional stressors and expectations that can come during the holidays.

Caregivers of people with mental illness are 21% more likely to feel emotional stress than those caring for someone with a physical condition. Though a person may be caring for a loved one, it is important to take care of the caregiver's mental health. Self-care for caregivers can take on many forms. Some examples of self-care are talking to someone about your feelings, seeking out support, leaning on your faith, and taking time for yourself. Self-care is individual to each person, and what works for one person may not work for you. 

Family caregivers can also be grandparents caring for minor grandchildren. In the United States, 2.6 million grandparents are the primary caregivers to grandchildren, and in Tennessee, around 77,000 grandparents are raising their grandchildren. Though many grandparents happily take on the role of parent proudly, it can still take a toll. Just like with caregivers of those with mental illness, grandparents as parents need support. The Knoxville-Knox County Committee's Office on Aging offers a Grandparents as Parents program. The program offers support and resources for grandparents raising their grandchildren.  

Finally, for all caregivers, it is important to remember you are not alone. There are resources available for family carers in Knoxville. National Alliance on Mental Health Knoxville (NAMI) provides education and advocacy for family caregivers. They provide a toll-free line support line with information on referrals and support. For those caring for older adults, National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) seeks to help caregivers by providing counseling, support groups, caregiver training, respite care, personal care, homemaker services, and adult daycare. Family caregivers are often overlooked, but they need support to continue to provide the best care for their loved ones. We have listed more resources below that can provide additional help and support if you need it.

https://mhanational.org/national-family-caregivers-month
https://states.aarp.org/tennessee/help-for-parent-grandparents
https://www.knoxseniors.org/grandparents
https://www.namiknox.org/about-mental-illness
https://www.tn.gov/aging/our-programs/caregiving.html


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OCTOBER 14, 2022

Domestic Violence Awareness Month
By Gabrielle Ferruccio

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence also includes intimate partner violence (IPV) and can occur in any romantic partner relationship. Domestic violence may include power and control over an intimate partner. The nature of the abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological. Adults are not the only ones who suffer from the consequences of domestic violence, as children can be silent victims and witnesses of domestic violence. 

The signs of an abuser are not always easy to see; 90% of people who engage in abuse do not have criminal records and do not exhibit abusive behaviors outside of their relationship. Signs of an abuser may include jealousy and possessiveness, a bad temper, cruelty to animals, and controlling behaviors. Sometimes these less obvious actions of possessiveness and controlling behavior are easier to see than physical signs such as bruising and injury.

Everyone may experience domestic violence, regardless of sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. If you suspect that you or a loved one are experiencing domestic abuse, resources are available to receive help. Some local resources in Knoxville include the Family Crisis Center, YWCA Knoxville & the Tennessee Valley (for women), and Hand UP for Women. The Knoxville Family Justice Center (FJC) is a local resource that helps survivors of domestic violence identify signs of abuse and create a safety plan. For more information, visit their website: fjcknoxville.org/domestic-violence.html

Additional resources and information are listed below.

Sources: ncadv.org/signs-of-abuse

Resources:

National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit www.thehotline.org to receive care and support in planning the appropriate next steps. 

A 24/7 resource available nationwide is the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which can be contacted at 800-799-7233, as well as 911 in cases of emergency.

Domestic Abuse and Addition: drugrehab.com/guides/domestic-abuse 

Love is Respect: loveisrespect.org 

Veto Violence (CDC): vetoviolence.cdc.gov/apps/main/home


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SEPTEMBER 23, 2022

Suicide Prevention & Recovery Month
By Klara Houck


Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States.  Last year alone, 45,979 people died by suicide. September has been coined Suicide Prevention Month and is dedicated to raising awareness of suicide and the signs of someone experiencing or observing suicidal thoughts and behaviors, with the aim of preventing these thoughts from becoming actions.  

Nearly one in fourteen people in the US report having suicidal thoughts or behaviors in their lifetime, with the most significant age groups being adolescent teens (ages 10-19) and the elderly (over 65 years old).  Anyone can experience suicidal thoughts regardless of gender, age, education level, background, or walk of life. There is no single cause for suicidal thoughts but there are four main types of risk factors: individual, relationship, community, and societal [1].  Individual risk factors include a history of depression, negative childhood experiences (e.g., abuse, neglect), and a sense of hopelessness.  Relationship factors include high conflict relationships and social isolation, while community and society risk factors include discrimination, stereotypes, and stigma. These factors combined compound one’s risk of suicidal thoughts.  

There are many warning signs that someone you care about is experiencing suicidal thoughts, some of them include talking about wanting to die, feeling like a burden to others, showing extreme sadness or frustration, eating or sleeping more or less, and many more [2].  Learning to recognize these signs is especially important currently due to the number of suicides increasing drastically each year, particularly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The time to act is now.  

Sometimes life is difficult and suicidal thoughts are very difficult to overcome, but it’s never too late to get help.  This starts with recognizing the signs and patterns of suicidal thoughts.  If you suspect that you or someone you know may be experiencing suicidal ideation, there are many national and local resources available to help. Anyone can call the number 988 or visit 988lifeline.org, on behalf of themselves or someone else, to receive the care and support they need to keep fighting.  Locally, the Knoxville Suicide Prevention Hotline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), staffed with trained telephone counselors who can speak with you and get you the help you need.  Find more information at https://www.tn.gov/behavioral-health/need-help/suicide-prevention.html
 
Here are some resources for additional information:
UTK Suicide Hotline: 865-974-HELP (4357)
#BeThere: https://www.cdc.gov/injury/features/be-there-prevent-suicide/index.html

 [1] Source: https://www.cdc.gov/suicide/factors/index.html
 
 [2] Source: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/warning-signs-of-suicide


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MAY 23, 2022


Mental Health Awareness Month
By Dalton Pursley

Mental illness affects millions of Americans every year, whether they face the challenge of living with mental illness themselves or they witness it impacting their loved ones. The month of May is dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of mental health. Additionally, Mental Health Awareness Month emphasizes the relevance of mental health and seeks to end the stigma surrounding mental illness. 

The term mental health refers to individuals’ psychological well-being. Mental health impacts how people connect to one another, manage stress, and make decisions, and a variety of factors such as an individual’s nutrition, sleep, relationships, etc. can all affect their mental health. For this reason, prioritizing your mental health is equally as important as prioritizing your physical health. Taking care of your mental health is crucial for fostering resilience to adversity and the ability to form and maintain healthy interpersonal relationships. 

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, mental health awareness has become even more important. Uncertainty, social isolation, and increased financial pressures are just a few of the stressors brought on or worsened by the pandemic. As a result, many people are experiencing more fear, sadness, anxiety, and loneliness, and thus their mental health is suffering. Furthermore, mental health conditions may worsen during the pandemic. Throughout the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic there was a major rise in anxiety and depression, with rates increasing 25% globally. Also, recent surveys have shown much higher rates of anxiety, depression, and insomnia than surveys taken prior to the pandemic. 

There are many ways you can take care of your mental health. Many people do not seek help because they believe they are not “sick enough” to warrant treatment, but a person can experience poor mental health, regardless of having a diagnosable condition. Whether you are struggling with your mental health or simply want to start prioritizing your emotional well-being, the following resources may be able to help:
*Mental Health America, “Starting to Think About Mental Health”
*Mental Health Association of East Tennessee

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, additional support can be found below:
• The Tennessee Statewide Crisis Line toll-free 24 hours, 7 days a week at 1-855-274-7471 or text 741741  
• The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)


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NOVEMBER 30, 2021

Alcohol Use During the COVID-19 Holiday Season
By Chandler Schelp & Samantha Moore

As the holiday season is drawing near, many people are still struggling with stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people may feel tempted to turn to alcohol to feel better during the hectic holiday season. The CDC noted that stress may contribute to increased alcohol intake and substance use. It can be easy to look for a quick fix to stress, but it is important to take care of your mental health and wellbeing. 

It is known that alcohol intake typically increases during the holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. During these stressful times, people may also experience mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia. 

Though alcohol may be seen as a “quick fix,” there are healthier ways to cope. Some better ways to manage stress include exercise, meditation, or reaching out to friends and family. 

There are also resources to help those who struggle with addition. The Tennessee REDLINE, administered by Tennessee Association of Alcohol, Drug & other Addiction Services, provides important information covering addictions and disorders for those seeking out treatment. They may be reached at 800-889-9789. 

Click here for more information


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OCTOBER 22, 2021

Domestic Violence Awareness Month
By Evan Basting


October is recognized as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This designation serves to empower survivors, hold perpetrators accountable, and spread awareness about domestic violence to others. Domestic violence is also often called family violence or intimate partner violence, and it is a leading contributor to injury, health problems, and mental illness.

Anyone can experience domestic violence regardless of gender, age, education level, background, or walk of life. Domestic violence can occur in many forms, such as physical, verbal/emotional, stalking, cyber/electronic, sexual, and financial abuse. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence list several warning signs of an abuser, which include extreme jealousy, substance misuse, a bad temper, and controlling behavior. Abusers often maintain power and control in relationships by instilling fear and placing blame on victims for anything bad that happens [1].

In the United States, nearly one in three men and women report experiencing sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking throughout their lifetime [2]. Survivors of domestic violence are at greater risk of reporting significant mental health concerns, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, and experience greater disruptions in work, school, and/or daily life functioning.

Abuse in relationships and families can occur in patterns and cycles, but these cycles can be broken. This starts with recognizing the signs and patterns of abuse. If you suspect that you or someone you know may be experiencing domestic violence, there are many national and local resources available to help. Survivors of domestic violence are encouraged, when they are ready, to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit www.thehotline.org to receive care and support in planning the appropriate next steps. The Knoxville Family Justice Center is a local resource that helps survivors of domestic violence identify signs of abuse and create a safety plan. For more information, visit their website: http://www.fjcknoxville.org/domestic-violence.html.

Here are some other resources for additional information:

Domestic Abuse and Addition: www.drugrehab.com/guides/domestic-abuse
Love is Respect: www.loveisrespect.org
Veto Violence (CDC): https://vetoviolence.cdc.gov/apps/main/home

[1] Source: https://ncadv.org/signs-of-abuse
[2] Source: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/2015data-brief508.pdf


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SEPTEMBER 30, 2021

September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month
By Rebecca Skadberg

Suicide is one of the most likely causes of death in children and adolescents and is often accompanied by depression or other mental illness. Warning signs may be different in adolescents and children. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry has provided further guidance [1]. 

Young children at higher suicide risk may feel sad, confused, angry, or have problems staying on task. Teen suicide risk is related to stress, self-doubt, perfectionism, failure, or loss. Warning signs of higher suicide risk include saying “I wish I was dead” or “I won’t be a problem much longer”, changes in daily habits like eating or sleeping, feeling sad, avoiding friends or family, physical health complaints (stomachaches, headaches, etc.), worsening grades in school, fascination with death / dying, giving away favorite toys, electronics, or other items, and inability to focus on the future. 

Other circumstances that are linked to higher risk of suicide include a having a family member who committed or attempted suicide, witnessing or experiencing violence, being aggressive or impulsive, bullying, feeling no hope, experiencing loss/rejection, and/or having access to guns and other weapons. If you have concerns, it is important to ask the child or adolescent about suicidal thoughts and strong emotions.

Here are some resources for additional support that can answer questions or provide crisis management: 

• The Tennessee Statewide Crisis Line toll-free 24 hours, 7 days a week at 1-855-274-7471 or text 741741  

• The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)  

[1] Source: https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Teen-Suicide-010.aspx 


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AUGUST 31, 2021

Back to School with COVID-19
By Alyssa Medenblik

With the exciting news that the Pfizer vaccine is now FDA approved, many people who were previously hesitant to receive a COVID-19 vaccination may be more comfortable doing so. While Pfizer is the only vaccine to date to receive this approval, the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are still highly effective at reducing severe illness and death related to the virus. 
 
Pfizer’s vaccine receiving FDA approval is a important development in the efforts to increase vaccination rates across the country. However, anxiety about COVID-19 is still a major concern for many Americans, especially those who have children younger than twelve years old who are going to school in-person. Kids clearly benefit from in person learning and  being around other kids in a classroom, the Delta variant of COVID-19 is a new version of COVID-19 that it makes being in these classrooms higher risk for kids than in the past year and it has been shown to spread even in people who are vaccinated As a result of this new variant, the CDC is recommending that parents mask kids ages two and up when they are indoors, even if they are vaccinated.  The good news is that we have learned from experience last year that masks can greatly slow down and even prevent the spread of COVID and that vaccines still protect us from severe disease even with the Delta variant. More masking for everyone and more vaccinated teens and adults will help us all stamp out this variant and get everyone back to school safely.

Kids understandably might not want to wear a mask, even if you want them to.  This is a normal part of child development and you can address this as you would any other conflict about articles of clothing, like shoes and pants.  If you can calmly make it clear to your child that you expect them to wear a mask and that it is not a big deal, many kids’ resistance will eventually decrease and stop. You could also consider providing a reward for times they wear it without a fuss.  Another great approach is making it a game or explaining the positive aspects of wearing the mask so that it can appeal to your kids’ desire to be a helper. One story making the rounds is a father telling his child that superheroes wear masks and they do it to protect other people. 
With students returning to school this month and next, it is also important to acknowledge any Covid-19 related anxiety and to talk this through with people who are important to you. also may include communicating with your family, friends, and community members about your expectations and comfort levels regarding masking and distancing. If you are experiencing a great deal of stress and anxiety during this time, please speak to your healthcare provider or seek out resources! KnoxWell has resources for discussing COVID-19 with your children as well as resources for handling stress and anxiety. Check out these pages on our website and utilize these strategies during this difficult time!


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APRIL 15, 2021


COVID-19 Vaccine Anxiety

As more Tennessee residents become eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, some may experience hesitation or stress related to receiving their first (or second) dose. Vaccine related anxiety is a valid emotion, and there are ways to help combat dealing with uncertainty.

It’s important to identify the source of your anxiety related to the vaccine. If your worry is about the safety of the vaccine, educate yourself through reliable resources about the way they were developed and how these vaccines work in the body. Here is a helpful guide from the CDC about common misconceptions. If you are concerned about side effects related to the vaccine, recognize that those are common, short-lived, and a sign of your body’s immunity at work!

It’s very common to have fears related to receiving a new vaccine, but it’s also important to recognize that the approved COVID-19 vaccines are the safest way to build protection from the virus. Vaccinations combined with continued masking and social distancing is the best way to protect yourself and reduce chance of spread to others. With these amazing tools, we may soon see a halt to this virus!


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