Pharmacy Residency (PGY1)

Parkland experts remind you to ‘take the moment’ to prioritize mental health

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

DALLAS – Behavioral health concerns affect people across Dallas County, yet stigma often prevents them from seeking the support they need. Parkland Health experts recognize the crucial importance of challenging misconceptions and fostering a culture of acceptance and understanding so people can feel comfortable talking about their mental health and seeking help.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) acknowledges May as Mental Health Awareness Month, an opportunity to address the challenges faced by millions of Americans living with mental health conditions. According to NAMI:

  • 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year, and only half of them receive treatment.
  • 1 in 20 U.S. adults experience a serious mental illness each year, and only two-thirds receive treatment.
  • 1 in 6 U.S. youth experience a mental health condition each year, and only half of them receive treatment.

Mental health disorders include psychotic disorders like schizophrenia; mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder; personality disorders; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); substance use; anxiety and eating disorders, among others.

“Acknowledging your emotions and seeking support are the first steps toward managing your symptoms effectively,” said Natasha Benatti, PsyD, Trauma Psychologist at Parkland Health. “It’s essential to create a safe space where you can express your feelings without judgment. This might involve confiding in a trusted friend, family member, or seeking professional help from a counselor or therapist.”

According to NAMI data, half of all lifetime mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75% by age 24, and early intervention programs can help. If you have a mental health condition, you’re not alone. As with other illnesses, mental illness is not your fault. With proper treatment, symptoms can be dramatically reduced and many people with mental health conditions will succeed in leading active, fulfilling lives.

In addition to working with a health professional, practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques can also help significantly alleviate stress and anxiety. Engaging in activities such as deep breathing exercises can help calm the mind and promote inner peace. Carolina Pena, Licensed Professional Counselor, Mental Health Therapist at Parkland Health emphasizes the importance of incorporating these practices into your daily routine. “Consistency is key. Even just a few minutes of mindfulness each day can make a significant difference in managing stress levels,” said Pena.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is another important way to prioritize your mental health. Regular exercise not only improves physical health but also releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. Additionally, prioritizing nutrition and getting an adequate sleep can help you build resilience against common stressors.

It’s essential to establish boundaries and learn to say no when necessary. Overcommitment can lead to burnout and worsen feelings of stress and anxiety. Learning to prioritize tasks and delegate responsibilities, when necessary, can help alleviate the burden. Pena advises, “Setting boundaries allows you to preserve your energy and focus on activities that truly matter to you.”

Additionally, fostering meaningful connections and engaging in activities that bring joy and fulfillment are vital for maintaining your mental wellbeing. Whether it's spending time with loved ones, attending church or spiritual gatherings or volunteering in your community, developing a support network can provide a sense of belonging. Pena encourages individuals to “Foster relationships that uplift and support you. Connection is a powerful remedy for stress and anxiety.”

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a 24/7 call, text and chat service where people can access trained crisis counselors. Those experiencing suicidal thoughts, substance abuse or any emotional distress can receive support, which is especially helpful for people wanting to remain anonymous. The line also offers support to those who are worried about a loved one and need crisis support.

The staff in Parkland’s Behavioral Health Services staff is here to support, offering a range of mental health services provided by trauma-informed psychiatrists, behavioral health providers, clinical social workers, psychiatric nurses and psychologists.

For more information about Parkland mental health services, visit