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Mental Health and Hunger

Updated: Jun 15, 2021

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and we would like to take this opportunity to shed some light on the effects poverty and hunger can have on mental health. When organizations like Second Harvest give food to people, they are not only treating the physical side effects of hunger, but they are also helping to heal the mental and emotional strain that hunger can have on a person.

Mental health is an important part of being healthy overall. It is just as important as physical health. Mental health determines how we think, feel, act, handle stress, and interact with others. To live a high-quality life, having good mental health is essential, but poverty and hunger can make this very difficult.

Being hungry is stressful. It can cause constant worry about where your next meal will come from, especially if you are responsible for providing food for others. Mothers with school age children who face hunger are 56.2% more likely to have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and 53.1% more likely to experience severe depression.

The stress of hunger affects people of all ages. Hunger can cause behavioral issues, developmental delays, and learning disabilities in children. According to Feeding America, 50% of children who face hunger need to repeat a grade. Food insecurity in adolescents can cause suicidal thoughts. Seniors who face food insecurity are at an increased risk for depression.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has found that people with mental health disabilities face higher rates of hunger. Having a parent with a disability and living in a food-insecure home can be extremely difficult for children growing up. Children’s food programs, such as Second Harvest’s summer feeding programs and backpack programs, are great ways of getting food to hungry children so they can do well in school and set themselves up for a successful future.

Here at Second Harvest, our services ensure people aren’t hungry so they can be in a good mental state. Here are some other simple tips on how you can improve your mental health right now.

Talk about your feelings

Being honest about your emotions is not a sign of weakness — it is an important part of taking care of your wellbeing. When you try opening up to a trusted family member or friend, you may find having someone just listen to you will make you feel less alone. Take time to listen to what your friends have to say as well; honest conversations are the foundations of a good support system, and we all need those.

Stay active

Taking care of your physical health is a great way to boost your mental health. Staying active can be as simple as taking daily walks, stretching before bed or after you wake up, gardening, or even doing housework. Experts recommend 30 minutes of exercise a day for at least 5 days out of the week.

Get enough sleep

Sleep is essential for mental health and having enough energy during the day. Try to have a steady sleep schedule where you go to bed and wake up around the same time every day. Adults are recommended to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night and the average for children and teens is 10 hours.

Take a break

While you are going about your day, make sure you’re taking breaks in between your work and tasks. Try going outside for a few minutes, spending a few minutes alone, or doing something that relaxes you.

Spend time on a hobby

Take time to do something you really enjoy. Participating in an activity that is hands-on — such as knitting, gardening, or woodworking — has been proven to lift your mood. In this day and age, it is also important to spend time away from your phone and not looking at a screen.

Try meditating

May also happens to be National Mediation Month. Meditation is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety. Better yet, you only have to spend 5-10 minutes meditating to reap the benefits. Try doing it before you go to bed every night. Find a quiet, comfortable place and focus your attention on your breathing. You can also use free meditation apps, such as Calm, Headspace, and Smiling Mind.

Value yourself

Lastly, remember to treat yourself with kindness and respect. Avoid negative self-talk and being overly critical of yourself. Remember that you deserve a high-quality life and to become the best version of yourself.

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