Say No to AIDS

Mental Health is sometimes ignored, but it is so important. What does mental health mean?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mental health refers to “our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices.”

In order to preserve our mental health, we need to ensure that we take a R.E.C.E.S.S. What does this mean?

Taking a R.E.C.E.S.S is important! Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and World Health Organization, PLHIV have various mental health needs. However, if these needs are not met, it can impact medication and treatment adherence. This is because mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety result in forgetfulness and low motivation. It is therefore critical that we pay close attention to mental health and seek the support of our Dream Team.


R - Relaxation

Can you think of things that soothe you? What do you enjoy doing? Being able to relax and taking time out from strenuous activities can enhance your mental health. Blood flow increases when we relax. Therefore, we are able to have a clearer mind, think positively, make decisions and concentrate.

E - Eating Well

Do you eat well? If you eat well, then you will feel well in your physical body and mind. A nutritious diet can improve your mental wellbeing, and less nutritious food such as sweets, fast foods and processed foods can actually harm your mental wellbeing.

To improve your mental health, it is best to eat lots of vegetables and fruits. These foods are “brain protective.” Additionally, lean proteins such as chicken, nuts, eggs, fish, seeds and soybeans help your brain to think and respond efficiently to stimuli.

Use alcohol and drugs in moderation.

C - Connecting With Loved Ones And Supportive People

In our discussion about your Dream Team, we discussed the role of building a support network. You need to ensure that the persons you surround yourself with can provide you with compassion and are not judgmental. When we have supportive and loving relationships, our brains are healthier. This is because chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin are released in the brain when we experience healthy bonds. Interacting with other people in meaningful ways can also reduce the impact of stress on the brain. Building relationships can be a challenge so let’s think of the two types of connections that you need. They are:

  • Intimate connections: These are connections with people who care for you and love you. They may include friends and family.
  • Relational connections: These are connections with people that you see often. You may share an interest with these people and they may work with you.

E - Exercising Regularly

Did you know that when you exercise, you experience a surge of dopamine and serotonin? These are two chemicals that are produced in your brain and they can improve your mood and energy levels. Persons who exercise generally are less likely to experience depression or anxiety. Exercise can also help to discharge stress in the body.

S - Sleeping

As you would recall in our section on physical health, sleep is very important. You require a minimum of seven hours of sleep. During sleep,your brain processes emotional information, and inadequate sleep is harmful to the processing of positive emotional content in your brain. As a result, your mood can be severely affected. Persons who do not receive adequate sleep are at risk for experiencing depression and anxiety.

S - Self-compassion

Self-compassion means taking care of yourself and soothing yourself when you believe that you are hurt, stressed or sad. Self-compassion looks different to different people. For some people, it involves saying comforting words to themselves, while to others, it may mean doing something that they enjoy doing which helps to soothe the painful feelings, such as going for a walk or playing music they enjoy.