Reducing Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness

Reducing Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, conversations about mental health have gained momentum, and the importance of addressing mental illnesses is finally being recognized. However, despite this progress, the stigma surrounding mental illness remains a formidable barrier to seeking help and support. In this article, we will explore the significance of reducing the stigma associated with mental health issues and how our collective efforts can pave the way for a more compassionate and understanding society. 

Stigma, in the context of mental illness, refers to the negative attitudes, stereotypes, and discrimination that individuals with mental health conditions often face. This pervasive stigma affects people from all walks of life, preventing them from seeking treatment, sharing their experiences, and living fulfilling lives. The fear of judgment and misconceptions about mental illness have perpetuated this stigma for far too long. 

The consequences of mental health stigma are far-reaching and detrimental. People who experience mental health challenges may avoid seeking help due to the fear of being labeled as “weak” or “crazy.” This hesitation to seek professional support can worsen their conditions, leading to prolonged suffering and potential crises. 

Student sitting alone on grass
People experiencing mental health challenges can feel very isolated. Being open to conversation about mental health can help reduce the stigma and create a more welcoming space. (Photo credit: Marisol Amador, UF/IFAS)

Moreover, stigma affects relationships, communities, and workplaces. Individuals struggling with mental health issues may face isolation, discrimination, and reduced opportunities for personal and professional growth. This not only affects their well-being but also hinders the productivity and inclusivity of our society. 

One of the most effective ways to combat mental health stigma is through education and awareness. Misinformation breeds fear, and fear perpetuates stigma. By providing accurate information about mental health conditions, their prevalence, and available treatments, we can dispel myths and promote empathy and understanding. 

Schools and workplaces can play a pivotal role in fostering awareness by integrating mental health education into their curricula and employee wellness programs. Initiatives like mental health seminars, campaigns, and awareness events can encourage open discussions and create safe spaces for sharing experiences. 

Personal narratives have the power to challenge misconceptions and humanize mental health issues. When public figures, celebrities, or even everyday individuals share their stories of coping with mental illnesses, it sends a powerful message of hope and resilience. These stories prove that mental health challenges are not insurmountable and that seeking help is a sign of strength. 

Media outlets can also contribute significantly by responsibly portraying mental health in films, TV shows, books, and online. By avoiding sensationalism and accurately depicting mental health experiences, the media can break down stereotypes and contribute to a more compassionate portrayal of those affected. 

Communities must come together to create a supportive environment for individuals living with mental health conditions. This involves fostering empathy, compassion, and active listening. Support groups and helplines can provide vital assistance and reduce the isolation felt by those struggling with their mental health. 

Furthermore, workplaces should adopt mental health-friendly policies that prioritize employee well-being. Encouraging open conversations about mental health at work and offering accessible resources like counseling services can make a significant difference. 

The government and healthcare institutions also bear the responsibility of reducing stigma and improving mental health services. Adequate funding for mental health programs, increasing the availability of mental health professionals, and integrating mental health into primary care are crucial steps toward addressing the issue. 

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What’s Brewing – Tea – National Tea Day

What’s Brewing – Tea – National Tea Day

Tea dates back thousands of years and spans numerous continents and civilizations. Tea contains antioxidants known as catechins and flavonoids. Antioxidants work to neutralize free radicals, which are formed when cells burn oxygen for energy.

Photo by Adobe Stock

Researchers from the USDA reported laboratory tests found tea produces greater antioxidants than numerous commonly consumed vegetables. Results of several studies suggest that tea has potential protective effects against certain types of cancers. Several studies also have suggested that tea drinking may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

There are many reasons for making tea, the second most consumed beverage worldwide, surpassed only by water, and part of a healthful lifestyle. Just as consuming fruits and vegetables daily provides vitamins, minerals, and fiber, drinking tea may help boost antioxidant intake.

Also, tea contributes to daily fluid intake, vital for the maintenance of fluid balance. Much of tea’s popularity can be attributed to its distinctive taste, aroma, and versatility. The health benefits of consuming tea suggest that it is a nutritionally healthy beverage choice. Whether you prefer tea hot or iced, it can be an important part of a healthy diet.

So, go ahead and brew up that cup of hot tea or a glass of iced tea and join the celebration of National Tea Day, April 21, 2024.

Tea Tidbits

On average, an 8-ounce cup of tea contains fifty milligrams of caffeine, about half the amount in coffee. The longer the brewing time, the more caffeine is in the tea.

Over 3.9 billion gallons of hot, iced, spiced, and flavored tea are consumed by Americans every year.

In the United States, Americans drink 80 percent of their tea over ice.

Lifestyle and Brain Health

Lifestyle and Brain Health

(Photo source: Canva)

Forgetfulness at times occurs to everyone, but many adults attribute this to aging. Regardless of your age, lifestyle practices are a factor in one’s health, and that includes brain health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledges that there are some factors we cannot change such as genetics and age. The CDC also endorses reducing risk factors to possibly prevent or delay cognitive decline. A Lancet Commission study reported that prevention, intervention, and care could prevent or delay up to 40% of dementia cases.

The secret recipe for brain health is much the same as for our overall general health: maintain an active lifestyle. This includes both regular exercise – at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days per week – and social engagement to maintain connectedness to our family, friends, and community. Consuming a nutritious diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting plenty of sleep are other good health habits. Those positive habits nurture a healthy weight and can aid with lower blood pressure, blood sugar management, cholesterol management, and overall positive physical and mental health.

Work to limit the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages and other empty calorie foods to avoid negative health effects. Avoid smoking and other tobacco or tobacco substitute (vaping) products and limit alcohol consumption. Making small changes over time eases the anxiety of dropping a bad habit and helps with the adoption of good habits that can improve one’s health.

While we cannot change our age, our genetics, or our family history, we can adopt healthy lifestyle practices to not only address our brain health, but also our overall health.

Preserving Strawberries: A Guide to Freezing

Preserving Strawberries: A Guide to Freezing

As we relish the flavors of locally grown strawberries, their sweet aroma and vibrant hues evoke the essence of sunshine captured in each bite. Now that we’re past Valentine’s Day, where strawberries often take center stage, let’s dive into the art of preserving these delicate berries, exploring freezing techniques that can be enjoyed long after the season has passed.

Freezing Strawberries: A Symphony of Techniques

Freezing strawberries is a wonderful way to extend the season’s bounty and enjoy the taste of freshness throughout the year. To cater to various preferences, we will explore multiple freezing methods: without sugar, with sugar, and with syrup.

1. Freezing without Sugar:

For those who prefer the pure essence of strawberries without added sweetness, tray freezing is the key. This method allows for the berries to stay loose and can then be easily removed or poured from the container. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  • Wash, remove caps, and drain whole berries.
  • Spread berries in a single layer on a baking sheet or jellyroll pan.
  • Place the tray flat in the freezer until the berries are frozen solid (typically one to two hours).
  • Transfer the frozen berries to plastic freezer bags, removing as much air as possible to maintain freshness.
  • To savor the best taste, consume the berries in a slightly thawed state, with a few ice crystals remaining. The natural expansion of frozen water causes the berry to soften when completely thawed.

2. Freezing with Sugar:

For those who enjoy a hint of sweetness in their frozen strawberries, consider the following method:

  • Wash, remove caps, and drain berries.
  • To freeze whole, sliced, or crushed strawberries, add ¾ cup of sugar to 1 quart (approximately 1⅓ pounds) of strawberries.
  • Stir until most of the sugar dissolves, allowing the mixture to stand for 15 minutes before transferring the berries into containers.
  • Ensure adequate headspace during packaging to prevent overflow when the berries freeze.
  • Artificial sweeteners can be used following the manufacturer’s directions, but it’s essential to note that they lack certain benefits of sugar, such as color protection and syrup thickness. Alternatively, add these sweeteners after the berries thaw.

3. Freezing with Syrup:

For those who are looking for pure sweetness. Strawberries packed in syrup are generally best for uncooked dessert use. The types of syrup range from very light to very heavy.

  • Wash, remove caps, and drain whole berries.
  • To freeze whole, sliced, or crushed strawberries, place berries into a desired freezer container.
  • Cover berries with a cold 50 percent syrup. To make the syrup, dissolve 4 cups of sugar in 4 cups of lukewarm water. Chill the syrup before using. For additional syrup recipes for freezing fruits, visit Syrups for Use in Freezing Fruits.
  • Ensure proper headspace during packaging to prevent overflow when the berries freeze.
  • Seal and place in the freezer.

Tips for Successful Freezing: A Chorus of Wisdom

  • The speed of freezing impacts the quality of the berries; the faster they freeze, the ice crystals that develop will be smaller. Set the freezer temperature to 0°F or lower, ideally reaching minus 10°F or lower 24 hours before freezing.
  • Store packages in contact with freezer surfaces, in the coldest part of the freezer, with enough space for air circulation until the berries are frozen. Once frozen, store packages close together.
  • Never overload the freezer with unfrozen food.  Work in small batches so the food can freeze within 24 hours.  An overloaded freezer can slow the freezing rate and affect the quality of the frozen product.
  • The recommended storage time for strawberries is 8 – 12 months in a freezer held at 0°F.  The shorter the time, the better-quality product. 

Preserving the exquisite flavors of locally grown strawberries is not just a culinary endeavor; it’s a celebration of seasonal abundance. Whether you prefer them unsweetened, with sugar, or in syrup, the steps outlined ensure optimal flavor and quality. Remember to freeze quickly, maintain freezer temperature, and avoid overloading the freezer for the best results. So, roll up your sleeves, embrace the sweet aroma, and enjoy those strawberries for months to come.

For more information on preserving strawberries and other fresh fruits, visit National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Adapted from: Zepp, M., LaBorde, L., Herneisen, A.  (2019, December 8). “Let’s Preserve: Freezing Fruits“. Penn State University.

Image Credit:

Let’s Go Walking – Celebrate National Walking Day – April 3, 2024

Let’s Go Walking – Celebrate National Walking Day – April 3, 2024

Let’s go walking on April 3, 2024, to celebrate National Walking Day. Walking is one of the best ways to get in our daily exercise with numerous health benefits.   

Research has shown that walking at a moderate pace at least 150 minutes a week can help you:

  • Think better, feel better, and sleep better
  • Reduce your risk of serious diseases like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and several types of cancer
  • Improve your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels
  • Increase your energy and stamina
  • Improve your mental and emotional well-being and reduce your risk of depression
  • Improve memory and reduce your risk of dementia
  • Boost bone strength and reduce your risk of osteoporosis
  • Prevent weight gain

With the benefits of walking listed above, why would you not want to start walking every day for your overall health?

The American Heart Association recommends swapping 30 minutes of sitting with movement. Walking is a great way to accomplish this goal. Walking for 30 minutes can be done during breaks at work, parking farther away from an entrance, taking the stairs, walking with family and/or friends, walking the dog, and chatting on the phone as you walk. The daily 30 minutes of walking can be done all at once or in intervals of 10 minutes at a time. This makes reaching your daily walking goal even easier.

Let’s go walking.

Let’s celebrate National Walking Day every day by purposely taking a walk and remembering the health benefits you are receiving while doing so. So, get up and get moving, and walk for your health!


American Heart Association:

University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Nebraska Extension. UNL FOOD:


Stress Around the Clock

Stress Around the Clock

By definition, catastrophic events, job loss, divorce, and death of a loved one are extremely stressful, but these situations are infrequent. What about those day-to-day stressors you face all the time? Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) reports a third of American workers who were surveyed are concerned about mental health.

The Centers for Disease Control National Institute on Occupational Safety and Health states the number one cause of chronic stress is the workplace.  Accordingly, 120,000 people die from work-related stress yearly. Not only are we busier, but we are working longer hours.

All the hard work adds up to stress and too much stress results in illness. It is important to develop some quick ways to defuse stress. It’s best to develop some of the skills before stressful situations occur.

Too much stress can impact your health. Defuse stress before it builds. Photo credit: Adobe Stock

The Big Squeeze – There is a direct link between problems at work and stress-related illness, especially when it comes to unwelcome change. This form of work stress is sometimes referred to as the FUD factor: Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. It is usually linked to the employees’ businesses or corporations that are undergoing change. Experts say you should first separate the things you can change from the things you cannot.

With that in mind, here are some suggestions on how to deal with stressful situations with minimal anxiety.

Co-Workers Stress – Situations involving others are always potentially stressful. Consider your options. Can you move your workstation? Can you reduce office interactions with people who upset you? Sometimes you need to turn a negative into a positive. Would more open communication alleviate some problems?

The Weighting Game – Gaining weight is often both a stressor and a symptom of stress. It is easy to appease your stress with overeating. Instead of reaching for food, reach for a book or cultivate a hobby. Keep low-cal snacks like carrot sticks or air-popped popcorn handy.

Fitness Guilt – First, give up the all-or-nothing attitude you may have cultivated. You would like to be healthier. You don’t need to train for the Olympics. Don’t look at exercising as another task you need to get done; do something you enjoy. Instead of hitting the gym, try dancing, biking, or swimming.

Sleepless but Superwoman – Called the “silent epidemic of modern time,” lack of sleep is often the result of the Superwoman syndrome, in which a person not only thinks she can do everything but feels responsible for everything. Stress and sleeplessness feed on one another. A number of studies have shown that stress reduces the time spent in deep sleep, which increase one’s stress level. One result of stressful sleeplessness is a reduction in the effectiveness of the immune system.

Unforeseen Events – Flat tire? Plumbing problems? Sick child? First, realize this isn’t going to last forever. Be prepared. Work out a plan “B” for anything that worries you. You now have a plan of action if you need one.

Latchkey Anxiety – Accept the reality that you can’t be everywhere. Next, try to establish some kind of safety net that could relieve your anxiety.

Recognize your stressors and take action to control your stress.