By: Stacy M. Brown, NNPA
In a time of heightened connectivity and constant information exchange, the significance of mental health breaks has taken center stage in discussions about overall well-being. Some colleges and universities have gone to great lengths, closing campuses for up to a week, underscoring these breaks’ crucial role in maintaining mental wellness.
While past generations often “plowed through,” professionals and educators insist that doesn’t mean individuals today are mentally or emotionally weaker.
“This generation is more informed about the importance of self-care, and I think they are better advocates,” said Dr. Sandra Edmonds Crewe, the dean and professor of social work at historically Black Howard University.
“As a result, it sometimes feels like their coping skills aren’t that strong, but they are much more open than my generation,” Dr. Crewe assured.
She noted that Howard officials are especially sensitive to the intersectionality of racism and other issues that add pressure, particularly to students.
“You’re dealing with racism and other ‘isms’ that bring added pressure to you if you’re a student at Howard, and you’re dealing with your academic responsibility,” Dr. Crewe asserted. “So, we try and address the whole student, not just where they are in the academic space, but how mental health is a part of their academic performance and growth.”
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration awarded Howard University a grant for mental health awareness training in August. The funding has helped the university teach graduate and undergraduate students about mental health by emphasizing how historically oppressed people have different triggers that relate to their well-being.
“So, we incorporate that in our education and talk about things like the enslaved person being mentally incompetent because they wanted to run for freedom,” Dr. Crewe elaborated. “We incorporate that in the training and understanding of how racism has resulted in us falling into stereotypes; working twice as hard, three times as hard, which increases your allostatic load which turns out to impact things like diabetes and hypertension. All those chronic conditions are sometimes related to how success looks like with you having to do more with less and that increases your vulnerability to mental health challenges.”
Mental health breaks are incredibly important in our modern era because we are all more interconnected than ever before, offered Dr. David Rakosfsky, President, and owner of Chicago-based psychotherapy business Wellington Counseling Group. Dr. Rakosfsky said the surge in technology and the rise of social media have intensified the pressures on individuals.
“We don’t agree with the idea that today’s generations are emotionally and/or mentally weaker than prior generations,” Dr. Rakosfsky stated.
Licensed grief and trauma therapist Arielle Jordan echoed that sentiment.
“The idea that this generation is weaker emotionally or mentally compared to previous generations is a common misconception,” Jordan stated.
She said taking mental health breaks, whether in schools, workplaces, or other settings, is viewed not as a sign of weakness but as a proactive step toward safeguarding mental well-being. Licensed Professional Counselor Kayla Clark noted a growing inclusivity of society from a mental health standpoint has people more attuned to the emotional experiences of others. She challenged the notion that previous generations thrived without mental health breaks, suggesting that they, too, may have benefited from such respites.
“Yes, older generations ‘plowed through and showed up physically’. I encourage other curiosities about those people,” Clark remarked. “What did their intimate relationships really look and feel like? How satisfied were they with their jobs? How well were they able to emotionally connect with and support their children? How did they enjoy life outside of work?”
“We are moving in a direction as a society that is much more inclusive from a mental health standpoint. We have grown to understand people and their differences in experiences, which has taught us the importance of believing in people’s emotional experiences,” Clark stated.
Chris Rabanera, a psychotherapist, and founder of TheBaseEQ.com, supported that perspective.
“We live in a different period with more information about mental health than ever before,” Rabanera asserted. “I’m sure there are increases in levels of mental health. I’m also sure that mental health issues weren’t addressed as they are now. An example would be ADHD. ADHD was not included in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) until 1968, 15 years after the first DSM was published. Does this mean that ADHD wasn’t around until 1968? Of course not. It just wasn’t recognized. We are recognizing mental health issues better than ever.”