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Spring cleaning showing increased mental health benefits
- excerpted from article by Erica Mokaym, CBS Pittsburgh 

The warm weather has many of us itching to get outside, and it's also leading to spring cleaning for some.

Not only can cleaning make your environment look better, but spring cleaning can also benefit your mental health.

"Spring cleaning can be beneficial for a number of different reasons. In general, cleaning can restore a sense of control. So, when things are feeling out of control, people often like to take control in ways that they can – like taking control of their environment," said Dr. Dawn Potter of Cleveland Clinic. "It can also be beneficial because a lot of people find clutter distracting, so engaging in some spring cleaning can help you refocus on your other goals."

Dr. Potter said the spring sunshine tends to give us a boost of energy – making it a great time to tackle some cleaning or other projects we put off in the winter.

Checking off items on our to-do lists can provide a sense of accomplishment and mark a fresh start to complement the season change.

To get started, Dr. Potter recommends writing down some tasks and coming up with a reasonable timeline to complete them. She said people should work at a comfortable pace and not be afraid to ask someone else for help if needed.

If you decide to take on the task of spring cleaning, make sure it's because you want to.

"When you're taking this on, do it for you. Don't do it to meet other people's expectations. So, if you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed, ask yourself, 'Is this what I want to do? Is this the right time for me to do it?' So, I think spring is a great time, but if it's not the right time for you, don't feel pressured. Just do what you want to the level that you feel good about," Dr. Potter added.

Dr. Potter said people should see professional help if they feel depression, anxiety, or if another mental health disorder is stopping them from doing everyday tasks like cleaning.

1 Thing You Must Do At Work During National Stress Awareness Month
by Bryan Robinson, Ph.D., Contributor, Forbes

April is National Stress Awareness Month with the goal of raising awareness of the impacts of stress. According to the American Psychiatric Association, 26% of respondents anticipate they will be more stressed in 2023 and their mental health will be worse. Two out of five adults ranked their mental health from “fair” to “poor.” When you have fewer stressors, you have increased emotional stability, better moods and overall superior health. This month is a time to pay special attention to how you can remain stress-free throughout your workday, and you can do that in very simple ways. You don’t have to quit your day job or even work fewer hours. You can continue your daily work routines while practicing stress reducers at the same time. The one thing you must do is have a stress awareness plan that you can practice at work.

Click here to read more.

6 Female Mental Health Heroes You Should Know
By Julie McClung Peck . Excerpted from

When you think of pioneers in the field of mental health, who do you think of? The first face that jumps into my head is that of Sigmund Freud, father of psychoanalysis and many a slip. Countless women, including Freud’s own daughter, have made equally important contributions in this arena as well, and I thought as we ease into Women’s History Month, it might be nice to have a little refresher on a few of the sheroes of mental health.

Click here for the full article. Resources

National Nutrition Month® is an annual campaign created 50 years ago in 1973 by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. During the month of March, everyone is invited to learn about making informed food choices and developing healthful eating and physical activity habits.

This year's theme is "Fuel for the Future." Eating with sustainability in mind is a tasty way to nourish ourselves during every phase of life and protect the environment. A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can help you create healthy habits that are sustainable and celebrate your unique needs. 

Click here for helpful resources including tips and games and here to learn more.

Black Pioneers in Mental Health

Black Americans' contributions to the field of mental health have been long overlooked. Check out the trailblazers below and click here to read more from Mental Health America.

Bebe Moore Campbell was an American author, journalist, teacher, and mental health advocate who worked tirelessly to shed light on the mental health needs of the Black community and other underrepresented communities. She founded NAMI-Inglewood in a predominantly Black neighborhood to create a space that was safe for Black people to talk about mental health concerns. Throughout her time as an advocate, Campbell made her way to DC. On June 2, 2008, Congress formally recognized Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month to bring awareness to the unique struggles that underrepresented groups face regarding mental illness in the US. 

Herman George Canady, Ph.D., was a prominent Black clinical and social psychologist. He is credited with being the first psychologist to study the influence of rapport between an IQ test proctor and the subject, specifically researching how the race of a test proctor can create bias in IQ testing. He also helped to provide an understanding of testing environments that were suitable to help Black students succeed.

New Year's resolutions to improve your mental health and wellbeing

Source: Priority - United Kingdom

After the busy festive period, the New Year can be an excellent time for a fresh start, and a chance to begin the year with a healthy mind-set. You may already have some ideas for New Year’s resolutions – you may be planning on joining a gym, spending more time with family, looking for a new job or career path, or cutting back on the amount of junk food that you eat.

You may also be looking for ways in which you can improve your mental health in 2020. Here, we provide five top tips on how you can focus on your psychological wellbeing in the New Year, resulting in long-lasting benefits.

1. Cut down on drinking and avoid drugs

You may have been drinking more than usual during the party season, and may even have taken drugs during this time. However, these substances are incredibly harmful to both your physical and mental health. It’s well-known that alcohol is a depressant, which can negatively affect your mood, making you feel low and anxious. Depending on which drugs you misuse, the effects on your mental health can range from anything from depression, anxiety and euphoria, to long-term psychosis, hallucinations and delusions.

Alcohol and drugs can also lead to you developing a harmful addiction to these substances, whereby you become both physically and psychologically dependent on drinking or taking drugs in order to function effectively in your day-to-day life.

There’s a whole host of benefits associated with giving up these substances. This is why it’s so important to take steps to cut back on your drinking (or stop altogether), and avoid drugs completely, as a means of improving your mental wellbeing.

If you think you have a problem with alcohol or drug misuse, it’s crucial that you seek specialist support to help you to overcome your addiction. Priory offers a free, no obligation addiction assessment, providing you with the opportunity to explore your individual challenges, view our exceptional addiction treatment environments, and learn about the journey that you can take towards achieving abstinence and recovery.

2. Look after yourself physically, to feel better mentally

Your physical health and mental wellbeing are linked, and as such, there are lots of positive changes you can make to improve your physical wellbeing that will also result in psychological benefits.

Exercise regularly

Exercise boosts the ‘happy chemicals’ in the brain, known as endorphins, which ultimately improve your mood and sense of wellbeing. Try and make the effort to engage in some form of exercise every day, even if this is just going for a short walk, and it’s likely that you’ll feel better as a result, both physically and mentally.

Eat healthily

It’s important to make a conscious effort to eat more healthily in the New Year, and try not to overeat. Not only does this have obvious physical health benefits, but a healthy diet that’s full of vitamins and nutrients can also have positive effects on your mental wellbeing. Research suggests that foods that are rich in folic acid (such as avocado and spinach), and omega-3 acids (such as salmon and tuna), can improve your mood and lower stress and anxiety.

It’s so easy when we’re feeling stressed or low to reach for the junk food, but you can help to alleviate some of these negative feelings by simply eating well.

Get plenty of sleep

It can be hard during our busy modern lives to get the right amount of sleep every night, particularly for individuals who work shifts, or for those with young children. However, the act of sleeping helps us to recuperate both physically and mentally, resulting in alertness and a positive mood the next day.

The average adult needs around eight hours of sleep a night to be fully rested. The following steps can help you to achieve this as often as possible:

Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Instead of lying in at the weekend, try to get in the habit of waking up at the same time that you do during the week. This can help to establish a consistent and healthy sleep routine

Try to avoid napping during the day, as this can mean that you struggle to get to sleep at night, and can have a negative impact on your routine.

Limit caffeine, sugar and alcohol before bed. These substances can make you feel anxious and jittery at night, and can prevent you from getting to sleep and staying asleep. You could also try and limit the amount of liquids you drink before bed, so you don’t keep waking up needing the toilet and then find it difficult to get back to sleep again

Avoid electronic devices such as computers, mobiles and tablets within 30-60 minutes of your target bedtime. These devices give off light which can be overly stimulating and keep you awake. If you want to read before bed, make sure you read from an actual book or magazine, as opposed to a screen. Again, these steps can improve the quality of your sleep.

3. Get yourself 'out there'

For many, January in particular can be a miserable month – Christmas is over, you may be eagerly waiting for your next payslip, and the dark nights and poor weather can mean that all you want to do is stay at home. However, staying indoors and potentially isolating yourself, can have a negative impact on your mental health.

Therefore, it’s a good idea to actively look for ways to get yourself ‘out there’ in the New Year. You could try joining some form of group or club, based on something you enjoy or something you’ve always wanted to try. For example, you could join a book club, a sports team or try volunteering. Not only will this help you to get out of the house and tackle the ‘January Blues’, but you may end up making new friends, increasing your confidence, and finding a positive hobby that you can continue all year round, thus improving your overall mental health and wellbeing.

4. Practise self-care

It’s so important to practise self-care as a means of improving your mental health. It can be easy to focus on the needs of other people in your life at the expense of your own needs, but taking just a small amount of time for yourself can be hugely beneficial to your psychological health.

Plan time for yourself

Try and plan some time for yourself as often as possible. Even just doing small things that you enjoy such as having a hot bath, reading a magazine or book, or listening to your favourite music, can help you to ‘re-charge’ and improve your mood. Set time aside for this each day, or a few times a week, so these activities are something that you can look forward to.

Discover what makes you happy

Develop an understanding of the places, people and activities that make you happy and bring enjoyment to your life. Then try to include as many of these as possible within your daily life, in order to boost your mood and wellbeing. You could even write these things down and refer to your list whenever you’re feeling low, anxious or stressed, as a reminder of all of the positive things in your life.

Stop being so hard on yourself

It’s so easy for us to be self-critical and hard on ourselves, which can have a negative impact on our levels of resilience, self-esteem and wellbeing. If you find that you beat yourself up over small things, and engage in negative self-talk, ask yourself whether you’d say the same things to another person. If the answer is ‘no’, then why would you say them to yourself? Instead, try to re-frame your negative thoughts so they’re helpful and conducive to positive mental health.

5. Consider taking a break from social media

There’s no doubt that social media has interconnected much of the world and can be a great way to keep in touch with friends and family. However, with increasing use, social media has the potential to have a negative effect on mental health.

Social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram can increase stress levels and have a detrimental impact on mood due to the fact that they encourage us to compare our lives to the lives of other people. Therefore, when you see others’ seemingly ‘perfect’ day-to-day lives, this can lead you to feel inadequate that you’re not able to match them.

As a way of starting off the New Year on a positive note, you could try logging out of your social media accounts and evaluating the impact that this has on your general mood, stress and anxiety levels and overall wellbeing. You might find that you’re much happier without having a constant insight into other people’s lives. In addition, without the incessant scrolling on your phone or tablet, you may find that you’re able to spend an increasing amount of quality time with your family and enjoy your leisure time more than ever.

If you find that you are struggling with a mental health problem, it’s important to recognise that specialist mental health support is available. 

Holiday Survival Kit

Source: Mental Health America

Although the holidays are supposed to be a time full of joy, good cheer and optimistic hopes for a new year, many people struggle during the holiday season when expectations are high and disrupted routines can feel overwhelming. However, some mental preparations and planning can help everyone cope with the season -- and even enjoy it.

Self-care. Pay special attention to your eating, sleeping, and downtime. It might be OK to skimp on a few hours of sleep just before a relaxing weekend, but think again if that weekend will include the stress of traveling, visiting or other activities out of your normal routine. Don’t forget to factor in downtime, too. Planning every hour of your time off can seem like a great idea, until you realize there is no time left to unwind.

Fun, not perfection. Resist the urge to do everything you can to make the season perfect for everyone. Just have as much fun as you can and don’t expect it to be perfect.

Anticipate stress. Plan ahead of time what your strategy will be when times get stressful. Is it possible to take a walk outside for 15 minutes when a family gathering gets stressful? How about a trip to your favorite store if your schedule gets you down?

Coping with Stress During the Holidays

Holiday Bill of Rights

You have the right to...

The Complete Guide to Mental Health Care for Men

Excerpted from

Mental health conditions don’t discriminate. People of all genders can experience depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. But they may look different in men.


Gender stereotypes and stigma can also make it harder for both men and their healthcare professionals to recognize when they might need mental health support.


Here’s the lowdown on all things related to men’s mental health, from identifying symptoms to finding the right kind of therapy.


Types of mental health conditions

Men can experience a wide range of mental health conditions, but some common ones include:

Are men less likely to experience mental health conditions?

There’s a common assumption that women are more likely to have mental health conditions than men, especially when it comes to depression. But that doesn’t mean men aren’t affected.


In fact, in 2019, men in the United States died by suicide at a rate 3.7 times greater than that of women.


Experts are increasingly acknowledging the complex factors at play when it comes to differences in how men and women experience mental health issues.


While biological factors, like hormone differences, can certainly play a role, they don’t tell the whole story. Internalized gender stereotypes, coping strategies, and clinical bias, among other things, may also impactTrusted Source assumptions about who experiences mental health conditions — not to mention *how* they experience them, which we’ll get into in a moment.


Men’s mental health symptoms to watch for

Men and women can sometimes experience the same mental health condition in different ways due to a mix of biological and social factors.


Mental health symptoms in men might include:


These include: 

Often, friends and family may be the first ones to notice the symptoms, as it can be difficult to recognize them when you’re experiencing them.


Why men are hesitant to reach out

According to the National Institute of Mental HealthTrusted Source, men are less likely to have received mental health treatment than women in the past year.


This doesn’t mean men don’t need or benefit from treatment.


Rather, “men can find it more difficult being open about their mental health and seeking support because it’s likely to go against the kinds of messages they received growing up,” explains Dr. Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic.


She goes on to note that many cultures have strong cultural stereotypes around how men should behave, especially around managing their emotions and appearing “strong.”


Plus, men who don’t (or feel that they can’t) speak openly about their feelings might have a harder time recognizing the symptoms of mental health conditions in themselves.


Getting help with your mental health

If you’re thinking about reaching out for help but aren’t sure where to start, you have a few options.


Talk with your doctor

If you already regularly see a healthcare professional, they can be a good starting point. Depending on their background, they’ll likely refer you to someone who specializes in mental health, like a psychiatrist or psychologist.


Search online

You can also search through directories online. For example, the American Psychological Association offers a psychologist locator tool that allows you to search for therapists in your area. Directories are especially helpful if you’re looking for a particular type of therapy or prefer a male therapist, because the tools allow you to filter your search.


HeadsUpGuys also offers a therapist finder that includes professionals who specialize in working with men.


A few other databases to consider:

Make some calls (or send some emails). Before scheduling an appointment, reach out to therapists you’re interested in seeing.


Give them some basic background on what you’d like to address, as well as anything you’re looking for in a therapist. Do you want someone who’s available for night or weekend appointments? What about text support in between sessions? Are you interested in trying teletherapy, or would you prefer in-person sessions?


If you have health insurance, this is a good time to ask about that, too. Therapy isn’t always covered, but some therapists will provide documentation you can submit to your insurance provider for reimbursement.


During the appointment

Your therapist will likely spend the first session or two getting to know you. This is also an opportunity for you to get to know their approach, so don’t hesitate to ask any questions around what you can expect from future sessions.


It’s important you feel comfortable talking with the expert you choose. If you feel like you aren’t “clicking” with your therapist after a few sessions, you can always explore other options. Plenty of people have to see a few therapists before they find someone who’s a good fit.


Depending on your symptoms, your therapist might refer you to a psychiatrist to explore medication, including antidepressants.


Keep in mind that medication isn’t necessarily something you’ll need to take for the rest of your life. Sometimes, it just provides a temporary lift to help you start working through the underlying causes of your symptoms. A psychiatrist can also help you navigate any side effects you might experience.


If you need help now

Reach out to a trained counselor at any time, any day of the year, for free confidential support:



You’ll find more crisis helpline numbers and suicide prevention resources here.


Coping with mental health symptoms

Everyone can benefit from self-care, including men. While working with a mental health professional can be a big help, there are plenty of things you can do to support yourself between sessions.


Touroni highlights diet, sleep, and exercise as factors, but explains that “we also need to make sure we’re looking after our emotional well-being.”


And sometimes, that means being “able to acknowledge and stay with feelings — especially the uncomfortable ones — instead of pushing them away or denying them.”


Sitting with uncomfortable feelings is easier said than done, and that can make it easy to fall into unhelpful coping mechanisms, like substance use or ignoring emotions.


While both of these might offer some short-term benefits, they won’t offer long-lasting relief. In some cases, they might even create long-term issues.


The next time you find yourself experiencing an uncomfortable feeling or emotion, try:

As you navigate different ways of managing your emotions, be gentle with yourself. If you don’t reach for the “perfect” coping mechanisms on a bad day, for example, don’t beat yourself up. There will always be another opportunity to practice new strategies.


Learn how to make your own self-care checklist that meets your needs.


Opening up to friends

Talking about what you’re going through with a friend can also be a big help, but that may be difficult if your friends are also men who might have a hard time opening up. But starting that conversation might end up being beneficial for both of you.


Mark Meier, the executive director of the Face It Foundation, says it’s important for men to “learn to understand the nuances of emotion” and recognize that negative emotions are “normal and recurring emotions throughout life.”


He recommends “finding someone that you can speak openly with about your personal challenges and open yourself up to growing more in-depth relationships with others.”


Your therapist can certainly be that person, but you might also find it helpful to open up to a peer.


You can try starting the conversation with something like, “I’ve been going through a lot. Do you have time to catch up later this week?”


If you feel up for it, you can also make yourself available to a friend in need with a simple, “I noticed you’ve seemed kind of down lately. Just want you to know I’m always available to talk if you need it.”


The bottom line

Mental health can be hard to think about. And identifying that you’re finding it difficult or that you might need help isn’t always easy — particularly for men.


However, it’s best to speak out. Whether you open up to a friend or family member or consult your doctor, there’s help out there, and ways to help manage your mental health yourself, too.

Breast Cancer & Depression  
This information is provided by

When feelings of sadness or hopelessness last for weeks and begin to interfere with your daily life, it may be a sign of depression.  It’s normal to feel sad, blue, or let down from time to time, especially after a breast cancer diagnosis. It’s also normal to feel overwhelmed about having to adjust to all the ways breast cancer can disrupt daily life. These feelings usually pass after some time. When feelings of sadness or hopelessness last for weeks and begin to interfere with your daily life, it may be a sign of depression. A person may feel symptoms of depression at any time before, during, or after breast cancer treatment.  

Symptoms of depression can include: 

Depression can also cause physical symptoms such as: 

Certain cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, steroid medicines, and hormonal therapies, can increase the risk of depression — either directly or indirectly because of the following side effects: 

There are some factors that can increase the risk of depression, such as: 

Certain breast cancer-related factors can also increase the risk of depression, such as: 

Click here to read more:

Mental Health and Sickle Cell Disease
Editorial Team,
By Editorial Team November 23, 2020

Complications of sickle cell disease (SCD) can cause a large emotional burden. Pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbance are linked to depression for people with SCD. Depression can worsen SCD complications and lead to substance abuse.

Preventing and treating depression can improve health outcomes and quality of life for people with SCD. One way to do this is to talk to a therapist or counselor. They can help you learn how to cope with and prepare for challenges caused by SCD.

Why is depression common among people with sickle cell disease?

Depression is a prolonged sad mood that interferes with normal daily life. About 1 in 6 adults experience depression during their lives. Anxiety is often connected to depression. People with anxiety have intense feelings of fear, worry, or nervousness.1,2

About 1 in 3 people with SCD experience depression. It often goes undiagnosed and untreated because symptoms are similar to other SCD complications. The major causes of depression in people with SCD are pain and fatigue. However, other aspects of SCD can affect self-esteem and lead to mental health issues. Additional factors are:

Click here to read the full article.

Helping a Loved One Cope with Mental Illness
From the American Psychiatric Association

Learn about what you can do to help a loved one cope with a mental illness

It can be very difficult and heart-wrenching to see a loved one struggling with symptoms of mental illness. And often it can be hard to know how to best help and support your loved one.

Every individual is different and situations vary greatly. The person may have a specific diagnosis, or you may just have concerns about the way a person has been talking and behaving. You know your loved one and may have an understanding of what approach or support will be most helpful. However, below are a few tips and things to consider when you are trying to help a loved one.

Know the Warning Signs of Mental Health Problems
For example, withdrawal from social interaction, unusual problems functioning at school, work or social activities or dramatic changes in sleep and appetite are possible signs. See more on Warning Signs of Mental Illness. Someone exhibiting these signs or having these experiences does not necessarily mean the person has a mental health problem, the symptoms could also be related to other issues or problems. But following up with an evaluation from a medical professional could help address any problems and prevent more serious symptoms from developing.

Getting Started, Approaching the Issue
One of the hardest and most important steps may be just starting the conversation. You do not have to be an expert or to have the answers. Express your concern and willingness to listen and be there for the person. Don't be afraid to talk about it. Reassure them that you care about them and are there for them. Use "I" statements. For example, use "I am worried about you…," "I would like you to consider talking with a counselor…." rather than "You are…." or "You should…."

Try to show patience and caring and try not to be judgmental of their thoughts and actions. Listen; don't disregard or challenge the person's feelings.

Encourage them to talk with a mental health care provider or with their primary care provider if that would be more comfortable for them. For some people, it may be helpful to compare the situation to a physical health concerns and how they would respond. For example, if there was a concern about diabetes or high blood pressure would they be likely to seek medical care?

Remind them that seeking help is a sign of strength.

Learn about Mental Health Conditions and Treatments
Educate yourself. The more you understand about conditions, symptoms, possible treatments and what to expect, the better you will be able to support your loved one.

However, carefully consider sources of information online. As with any topic, the quality of information available online varies a great deal. (See resource list at the right.)

Help Address Potential Barriers
Try to anticipate and help address any potential barriers to the person seeking help. For example, find out about local resources available to help. For example, make it easier for the individual by researching potential therapists, hours, locations and insurance related issues. If you think they might be barriers, address possible issues with transportation, childcare, strategies for communicating with an employer, etc.

Seek Support for Yourself
While you're focusing on helping your loved one, it's also important to take care of yourself – physically and emotionally. Reach out for help for yourself if you need it. Recognize and acknowledge the limits of what you can give.

Blogger Victoria Maxwell writes: "When my mother was ill with the swings of severe depression, mania, and anxiety, I was worried as well as angry. I needed someone outside the family to freely discuss my frustrations and hurt without the fear of upsetting her. A qualified therapist offers clarity, objectivity, solutions not previously seen and a place to safely deal with the emotions rising from such difficult circumstances."

Support groups for family members such as those through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Mental Health America can be valuable sources of information and mutual support and understanding. NAMI offers both a training program for families (Family to-Family) and ongoing peer-led support groups for family members.

NAMI Family-to-Family is a free, 12-session educational program for family and friends of people living with mental illness. It is an evidenced-based program taught by NAMI-trained family members who have been there. Find a NAMI Family-to-Family class near you here.

NAMI Family Support Group is a peer-led support group for family members, caregivers and loved ones of individuals living with mental illness. They are free and confidential. Find a NAMI Family Support Group near you here.

Expectations and Collaboration
It is important to have realistic expectations. Recovery is generally not a straight-forward process, there will be likely be improvements and setbacks along the way. With permission of your family member you can work with their treatment team to help provide support.

Even if you feel your support and actions are not making a difference, they are likely making a difference for your friend or family member. You loved one may be hurting and not clearly recognize what you're doing or may not be able to express appreciation. But knowing you are there for them can be important in helping their recovery.

If you feel your loved one is at risk of hurting themselves or others, contact the National Suicide Prevention Line 800-273-TALK (8255).

Families and Caregivers
From the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

When a friend or family member develops a mental health condition, it's important to know that you're not alone. Family members and caregivers often play a large role in helping and supporting the millions of people in the U.S. who experience mental health conditions each year. Many family members and caregivers experience the same thoughts and questions you might be having now.

You may be trying to help a family member who doesn't have access to care or doesn't want help. Or you may want to learn how to support and encourage someone who has been hospitalized or experienced a similar mental health crisis.

We realize that the challenges of mental illness do not only affect an individual's family members but also friends, teachers, neighbors, coworkers and others in the community. Here we use the terms family member and caregiver interchangeably to refer to someone giving emotional, financial or practical support to a person with a mental health condition. Whether you're providing a lot of assistance or very little, the information here can help you better understand the issues that you might face.

Click here for video & to read more about:

Mom shares story of teen daughter's suicide — and why it's important to speak up
How Jenny Morales is hoping her grief will help others advocate for loved ones with mental illness.

This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or go to for additional resources.

“I want people to understand how important it is to speak up — to be a voice you need help,” Jenny Morales said. “I want parents to start the conversation.”

“I want people to understand how important it is to speak up — to be a voice you need help,” Jenny Morales said. “I want parents to start the conversation.”

Tiera Hopkins loved to dance. The fun-loving vibrant teen started dancing at 7 and it was “pretty much her life,” said her mother, Jenny Morales, 47, a client advocate at an insurance company in Elgin, South Carolina. Five days a week, Tiera practiced. When she wasn’t dancing she was hanging out with her tight group of friends or younger brothers. Morales said Tiera was a delight.

“She always kept you smiling — she was always smiling,” Morales told TODAY. “But unfortunately she kept a lot of things to herself. She wasn’t very vocal about her feelings.”

Tiera always smiled and seemed upbeat and happy. Little did anyone know she was struggling. 

Tiera always smiled and seemed upbeat and happy. Little did anyone know she was struggling. Courtesy Jenny Morales

In 2012, at the age of 16, Tiera died of suicide. Morales’ grief still feels overwhelming, but she has become an advocate for destigmatizing mental health in teenagers and encouraging parents and teens to talk about mental health.

“It starts with teaching them communication — teaching them how to break that stigma. It’s OK to not be OK,” Morales said. “I want teens not only to speak up for themselves but also to speak up for others.”

From vibrant and happy to loss
From the first class, Tiera fell in love with dance.

“It’s just what she enjoyed — and of course, she was wonderful at it. She was a beautiful, beautiful dancer,” Morales said.

Tiera also had a close group of friends that had been inseparable since they met in third grade and she loved being an older sister to her younger brothers.

“She was a very caring young lady,” Morales said.

Tiera loved dancing and spent about five days a week at the studio practicing. 

Tiera loved dancing and spent about five days a week at the studio practicing. Courtesy Jenny Morales

While Tiera was a good student and never got into trouble at school, about a month before her death, her grades slipped. At the time Morales thought her daughter was overwhelmed with new dance classes and high school.

“We actually had the discussion (that) maybe it is too much for you because your grades are dropping and we cut back on dance,” Morales recalled. "She pretty much lost it. She was like, ‘No, no, that’s my life. You can’t take it away from me.’”

She later learned from Tiera’s friends that Tiera confided in them that she was struggling and she told them she had thoughts of suicide. But they did not realize she was being serious. That’s one reason why Morales has become a mental health advocate. She wants parents and teens to be able to talk about mental health and suicide openly.

“It’s teaching them how to communicate and be a voice for themselves — their friends,” she said. “If they notice something is not right especially if their friend has been forthright, and actually says, ‘My life is worthless’ or ‘I have no purpose,’ or if you just notice a huge or drastic change in your friend, you have to say something.”

Jenny Morales wished she would have talked with her daughter, Tiera, more about her mental health. Since Tiera's death by suicide at age 16, Morales has been trying to encourage others to talk with their loved ones about mental health. 

Jenny Morales wished she would have talked with her daughter, Tiera, more about her mental health. Since Tiera's death by suicide at age 16, Morales has been trying to encourage others to talk with their loved ones about mental health. Courtesy Jenny Morales

But Morales hopes that parents will also talk to their children about mental health and suicide, even if it feels scary or difficult.

July 16, 2020, 1:51 PM EDT / Source: TODAY By Meghan Holohan