PACIFIC COUNTY — Because of the inevitable unsettling impact of the Covid pandemic, May is being promoted as Mental Health Month more vigorously than any year in recent history.
Back in 2017, Peace of Mind of Pacific County grew out of the group of advocates who had been active in NAMI (The National Alliance on Mental Illness).
Leaders of the nonprofit group have promoted wellness year round in south Pacific County, while focusing in May on a walk, silent auction and community awareness dinner.
This year, because of the continued health worries as the pandemic continues, all these activities have been cancelled for the second consecutive year.
But the volunteer advocates are still busy.
“The isolation and inability to relate to people has been extreme,” said Nikki Fortuna, president of the board of Peace of Mind of Pacific County.
“It is coming around now. We are less isolated, but we are still not connecting.”
As well as directing people to web sources for guidance and support, the group has found a practical way to boost mental health awareness. This month’s focus has the theme “Rocks For Mental Health” and Fortuna and other advocates are enlisting help of children and adults.
They are inviting creative people of all ages to paint inspirational sayings on rocks and display them at homes and businesses, an idea borrowed from a successful youth program started some years ago.
Staff at the three Timberland Regional Library branches in Ilwaco, Ocean Park and Naselle have joined the campaign.
While supplies last, the libraries are distributing “Take and Make” bags for painting rocks. The kits include paint, brushes, rocks and instructions.
The idea is for people to brightly decorate the rocks with positive affirmations like “Wellness rocks,” “Hold onto hope” and the Peace of Mind of Pacific County logo, which features a heart and two hands reaching out to each other. Other suggestions are “peace,” “hope” and “access.” These can be placed in front yards or at businesses, with their permission.
As an incentive to participate in a big way, Peace of Mind supporters plan to erect yard signs reading “We rock 4 mental health” at locations with more than 50 painted rocks.
“We are hoping that people will participate and connect with friends to do 50 or more, and display them at home, a business or a community sign,” Fortuna said. “This gives people an opportunity to talk with their neighbors and see everybody’s efforts, however silly.”
Other projects during May include a coupon program to boost area businesses and bookmarks, with the slogan “Mental Health is everyone’s business,” which are being distributed to area schools.
Peace of Mind advocates note that they are not mental health professionals. However, they have partnered to share information with Mental Health America, Willapa Behavioral Health, WellSpring Community Network, the Justice Mental Health Collaborative and the Pacific County Department of Health and Human Services.
Their website at www.pompc.org highlights activities and offers support resources for adults and young people on such topics as suicide, drug addiction, self harming, teenage issues, and help for residents with depression or who may have bipolar issues.
The group is also accepting donations from people who may prefer not to paint.
Fortuna said people seeking accurate information should check out online materials from Mental Health America or SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which is part of the federal government’s Department of Health and Human Services.
She noted the rock painting had been a staple of kids’ programs taught through the group’s Wellness Recovery Action Plan classes. “It gives them positive affirmation and a ‘fidget,’ something to hold on to and move around in their hand, which many people need as a source of comfort when they have stress and anxiety.”
The rocks don’t have to be sophisticated art. Anyone can pick up a rock, grab a marker, and write a slogan. “It’s something anybody and everybody can do.”