Bonnie Jean Kuras

Bonnie Jean Kuras

This Pitt County Collaborative on Children, Youth and Families shared this column in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month.

Giving encouragement is a way to help predict and promote the success of others,” so said my 87-year-old father during one of our recent long-distance phone conversations.

I have always had fairly lengthy commutes and made a habit of calling my parents after the work day to check in — using the hands-free device, of course.

I did not realize that these phone calls were my way of resetting myself after a long and sometimes difficult or stressful day.

Without intention, I had used these conversations as a tool to increase my own resiliency over the years. Now, that is not to say that I did not actively seek out other activities to increase my sense of mental health and wellness.

I had read enough self-help articles and attended enough inspirational trainings to know that mental health is essential to overall health and well-being; and that it takes a healthy lifestyle to help prevent issues from arising or decrease the impact of known conditions.

However, there were days, weeks and even months that I allowed those efforts to be sidelined. Rather than taking care of myself, I gave priority to all and any other commitments. Talk about being the perfect example of work-life imbalance.

My extremely upbeat and positive outlook on life and my willingness to interact with others significantly diminished, anxiety and depression took over.

To the public, I was still “mostly-me,” but that certainly wasn’t the case at home. It also took a physical toll on my body. Migraines, chronic joint pain and suffering was almost unbearable at times. Then we made a life change that changed our lives considerably.

My husband and I moved from New Hampshire to North Carolina, in part to escape the cold and the seemingly endless efforts of ice and snow removal during the lengthy winters there. It was during this process that I made a conscious decision to make other significant changes in my life. I had to heal, mentally and physically. During the act of moving, I gave myself permission to take action and used the move as an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start all over again.

Today, I can freely and openly admit that the act of speaking with a counselor helped me give myself permission to take action. It brought me hope and healing. It made me work to become more resilient and strive to help others benefit from my experience in finding the right balance.

This new path led to working at TEDI BEAR Children Advocacy Center and collaborating with multiple agencies and people dedicated to working within Pitt County to Build Resiliency and Courage/Capacity to Excel.

The members of the BRACE community are working together to determine how to align the work being done to support the youth and families of Pitt County. Top of the list is raising awareness about the connection between physical health and mental health and healthy families/communities.

What better time to do this, than Mental Health Awareness Month?

The agencies that make up BRACE are in the process of training community members in helping others to use resiliency tools and to develop “toolkits” to help manage the issues of everyday life that can sometimes become larger issues in regards to mental health.

My father’s words truly summarize what the intention of our work is meant to do for our future here in Pitt County. We are at the beginning stages of bringing awareness and encourage everyone to do what they can to increase their own education and efforts for increased success.

As part of our first steps, we invite you to a viewing and discussion of the movie, “Resilience: The Biology of Stress and The Science of Hope,” at 5 p.m. on May 22 at Sheppard Memorial Library. Seating is limited.

Please register for a seat by contacting me at kurasb18@ecu.edu or going to the TEDI BEAR CAC website to register.

Bonnie Jean Kuras is a community educator for TEDI BEAR Children Advocacy Center. 

VIEWING

Members of Pitt County to Build Resiliency and Courage/Capacity to Excel (BRACE) are raising awareness about the connection between physical health and mental health and healthy families and communities. As part of the effort, the group is hosting a viewing and discussion of the movie, “Resilience: The Biology of Stress and The Science of Hope,” at 5 p.m. on Wedensday, May 22, at Sheppard Memorial Library. Email kurasb18@ecu.edu to register.