Let’s Talk About Mental Health

May 31, 2023

With Mental Health Awareness Month coming to an end, I wanted to reflect on what I learned, my experience with mental health, and share resources for you.  

A Brief Introduction

May was Mental Health Awareness Month, and I found it to be particularly inspiring this year. Allow me to introduce myself, I am Jess Klacik, the Communication Coordinator here at Disability Rights Tennessee, and I (along with about 58 million other people) have a mental illness. Actually, more than one. I wanted to share this to remind you that you truly aren’t alone and because I am an advocate for beating the stigma of mental health.

May can be a strange time of year. The weather turns around, so the season can’t be an excuse for the symptoms of your mental health. School ends, and with it goes structure and social interaction. There’s a pressure to be social or have fun, and guilt for not doing it. Parents or caregivers have to balance work and childcare. There are a variety of challenges that come with this time of year. With that said I want to share resources that are relevant to you ALL year round.

Our Client Stories

Before we jump into the details of resources, I want to share some client stories we have published. Did you know that mental health can be considered a disability? It is important to understand this and know how to advocate for yourself. If you or a loved one needs help navigating a mental health disability, contact us at 1-800-342-1660 or GetHelp@DisabilityRightsTennessee.org. We also have resources available to you on self-advocacy which can be found by clicking here.

  • DRT Client Story: Sarah – When Sarah sought mental health treatment the facility would not allow her service animal Hugo to accompany her. However, without Hugo’s support, Sarah was not able to fully participate in her treatment at the facility.
  • Client Story: Greg – For the majority of his life Greg Burt has been a protector, both in his military service and as a firefighter and emergency medical technician for the City of Murfreesboro. When Greg learned that he was experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), he found great support from a service animal.
  • DRT Client Story: Eric – Eric, a second-grade student, rarely lasted longer than an hour in his classroom before having anxiety and going to the school’s behavior lab. Eric needed better supports in school.

Resources for You

Knowing When to Seek Professional Help

Sometimes self-care and stress management just don’t cut it, and that is okay. If it has been more than two weeks of severe or distressing symptoms, seek professional help. Some of these symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Appetite changes that result in unwanted weight changes
  • Struggling to get out of bed in the morning because of mood
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of interest in things you usually find enjoyable
  • Inability to perform usual daily functions and responsibilities1

Seeking out help for mental health help is brave. I know how scary it can be to start this process. The truth is everyone has feelings and therapy helps handle those.

Some Other Tips & Tricks

Deep breathing

I know it sounds silly, but focusing on my breathing has helped me calm down during panic attacks. When feelings of stress or anxiety hit it is common for our breathing to get shallower, our heart rate to increase, and our blood pressure to increase. Taking deep breaths can help decrease these symptoms, which can help make you feel calmer and more relaxed. To learn more on this topic, click here!

Self-care matters!

I often say that our mental health matters just as much as our physical health and the same is true the other way around. Staying focused on taking care of yourself is so important to help break cycles of mental health. I won’t pretend like it is an easy thing to do. It can be hard to take care of yourself when you’re in the thick of it, but it must be a priority! Try to do one thing a day to help yourself, whether it be going for a walk, spending time with loved ones, or opting for a salad instead of chicken nuggets. These small choices can make a big difference.

Things I wish I knew before starting therapy:

  • It can be emotional.
  • Sometimes there is homework.
  • The first step is the hardest step.
  • Not every therapist is a good fit.
  • Goal setting is beneficial.
  • Some insurances offer free sessions or other benefits (I cannot speak for your insurance. Contact your provider to learn more.)
  • You have to be honest in therapy.
  • There is a learning curve for what does and doesn’t work. Healing takes time.

I am so thankful to have the opportunity to write this blog and share resources for you all. I cannot stress enough how important mental health is, and how normal it is to have a mental illness. Please seek help if you need it, you are not alone.


  1. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/caring-for-your-mental-health