Myths vs. Facts about Mental Health

Because we don’t talk as much about mental health as physical health, it’s possible that you’ve heard some myths. Getting the facts is important. Let’s explore some common myths vs. facts about mental health.

 1.  Having positive mental health means that you will not feel stressed or unhappy.

 FALSE – A person with positive mental health can still feel stressed, anxious, or unhappy.

Everyone faces challenges in life that can impact their mental health. Your mental health can change over time. Having good mental health doesn’t mean that people never go through bad times. When these feelings begin to have negative effects on a person’s daily activities and relationships, it is a sign that the person has negative mental health.

Everyone goes through tough times, and no matter how long you’ve had something on your mind, it’s important that you talk to someone about it. Talk to your parents or a trusted adult if you experience any of these things:

  • Can’t eat or sleep
  • Can’t perform daily tasks like going to school
  • Don’t want to hang out with your friends or family
  • Don’t want to do things you usually enjoy
  • Fight a lot with family and friends
  • Feel like you can’t control your emotions and it’s affecting your relationships with your family and friends
  • Have low or no energy
  • Feel hopeless
  • Feel numb or like nothing matters
  • Can’t stop thinking about certain things or memories
  • Feel confused, forgetful, edgy, angry, upset, worried, or scared
  • Want to harm yourself or others
  • Have random aches and pains
  • Smoke, drink, or use drugs
  • Hear voicea

2.  Over 50% of mental health disorders appear by age 14.

TRUE – The start of approximately 50% of all adult mental illness occurs by age 14 and 75% by age 24.

Mental health problems don’t only affect adults. Children, teens, and young adults can have mental health problems, too. Adolescents and young adults are at high risk for developing a mental disorder.

Why is this so? It’s more than one factor, and there is a lot that we still don’t understand. One reason is that adolescence is a time of many developmental changes in the brain that affect thinking and emotions as well as rapid physical growth. These changes do not always occur in sync with each other. This gap between brain development and other aspects of development creates a window where mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders, such as depression, can emerge. In addition, teens are still learning skills for self-control and regulating emotions.

 3.  One in every 5 American adolescents is living with a mental illness.

TRUE – 20% of American youth have been diagnosed with a mental illness. This statistic does not include youth who are experiencing mental illness but have not sought professional help and remain undiagnosed.

Unfortunately, less than 20% of children and adolescents with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need. Early mental health support can help a someone before problems interfere with other developmental needs.

There are several reasons why people don’t seek treatment. People may not know who to talk to or where to go to get help. Many people are reluctant to ask for help because of the stigma connected to mental health and mental illness. Although attitudes about mental health and whether it is okay to discuss mental health are changing, stigma still exists. You can help stop the stigma by talking about mental health. Remember to treat people with mental health problems with respect.

Some mental health situations may call for professional help. If you or someone you know needs to be connected to professional resources read Ohio State University’s Center for Public Health Practice Mental Health Resource Guides. Go to, find the county you need and select it to bring up local resources.

Today’s Take-Away: Get the facts about mental health. In this post I shared just a few of the myths and facts. You can check out and download our Ohio 4-H Mental Health Myth vs Facts resource to learn more.

Check out our Mental Health Month resources. And come back for more information and ideas!

Yours in Health,


Theresa Ferrari, Extension Specialist, 4-H Youth Development

“Mental Health Facts” resource developed by Amanda Raines, 4-H Educator, Hardin County

 Adapted from

Just Breathe! to Manage Stress

“Just breathe!” is advice we may have heard as we prepared for exams and other big events. We breathe in and out all the time, without thinking. Surely it can’t be as simple as just breathing. Actually, it’s good advice, and it is something that we can learn to use to our advantage. In this post we’ll discuss ways you can “just breathe” to manage stress.

Recognizing and managing stress is an important life skill to learn. The stress response is actually a series of responses that begin in the brain. Your brain sends a distress signal (in the form of hormones) to other parts of the body, such as those that control breathing and blood circulation. They are part of the body’s automatic response, and they happen so quickly we’re not really aware of it, we just feel the effects. The key is to interrupt this process. Because deep breathing techniques shift that focus, they are one of the best ways to calm yourself when you feel stressed.

Some key points about breathing:

  • Breathing affects the whole body.
  • Breathing exercises are easy to learn.
  • You can try different techniques to find out which work best for you.

How does breathing work to manage stress?  Researchers are working to better understand how stress and breathing affect the brain. We know deep breathing increases the oxygen supply to the brain. It appears that focused breathing activates parts of the brain that control emotions. It relaxes the nervous system, and therefore it also improves mental concentration, learning capacity, and decision making. Slow, deep breathing helps you concentrate, and therefore it helps you to disengage from distracting thoughts and sensations. When you find yourself drifting, bring your focus back to your breath.

The good news: Focused breathing exercises can be simple, quick, and done almost anywhere.

Here are two of my favorite breathing exercises.

1) Alternate Nostril Breathing **Caution those with asthma to avoid this exercise.

  1. Stand or sit up tall.
  2. Use your index finger and thumb of your right hand for this exercise.
  3. Start by pressing your index finger over your left nostril. Inhale slowly through your right nostril.
  4. Press your thumb over your right nostril and at the same time lift your index finger away from your left nostril. Exhale slowly through your left nostril.
  5. Once you have exhaled completely, inhale slowly through your left nostril.
  6. Press your index finger over your left nostril and exhale slowly through your right nostril.
  7. Repeat at least three times.

2) Countdown to Calm

  1. Stand or sit up tall.
  2. Inhale slowly, and using one hand, lift one finger at a time as you count to 5.
  3. Exhale slowly, and as you do so, lower one finger at a time as you count backwards from 5.
  4. Repeat at least three times.

Today’s Take-Away: Focused breathing exercises can be simple, quick, and done almost anywhere. You can download a tip sheet with the two breathing techniques above, as well as five more. I hope you’ll find one or more that you can make part of your stress management toolbox.

Justin Bower, 4-H Educator in Logan County, has recorded a 23-minute presentation titled Continuing to Cope with COVID. He discusses lots of techniques to support physical, emotional, and mental health, including breathing. Check it out!

Promotion for Healthy Body Healthy Mind SPIN Club

Register by January 14 for the Healthy Body Healthy Mind SPIN Club

Remember, you can sign up for the Healthy Body Healthy Mind SPIN Club that starts next week on January 19 and runs once a week for 6 weeks. You can also find more resources on the Ohio 4-H webpage.

In addition to ways to focus our breathing, there are two other ways to help with the build up of stress: physical activity and social support. We’ll be covering these topics in future posts. Come back for more information and ideas.

Yours in Health,


Theresa Ferrari, Extension Specialist, 4-H Youth Development

Breathing exercises from “Just Breathe!” in the Coping with COVID: Lesson Plans to Promote Mental, Emotional, and Social Health.

Learning Is Fun and Healthy

By Justin Bower, Logan County 4-H Educator

I’ve always had an interest in music. I was in choir and band and loved to dance too. As a 4-H camp counselor you usually found me in the rec hall at 4-H Camp Ohio teaching line dances as early as 6:45am. Now let me be clear, I was decent at music, but by no means am I great at any one of these things.

My singing voice tends to be too nasally, I cannot play complicated pieces on instruments, and my dancing range is stuck in line dancing. However, in high school I still wanted to learn something new. I had learned piano, and several brass instruments but I wanted to be able to play while camping and dragging our upright piano around did not seem like the most practical thing.

I settled on trying to learn guitar. My mother had a travel acoustic guitar that no one had touched for a few years. So I decided to start looking up lessons on YouTube, printing off chord charts, and taking the time to practice and learn. Now I am in no way a skilled guitar player now but I can get myself through leading worship or camp songs by using chords (and just so you know, Alice the Camel is a great song to play on guitar).

With us having to stay at home more than we are used to, you might find yourself bored or in a rut. Take the time to learn something new!

Here is a list I created of some useful skills you can learn on YouTube:

  • Using hotkeys/keyboard shortcuts
  • Changing a tire
  • Mastering folding
  • Speed-reading
  • Craftsman skills
  • Learn Spanish

Here is a list of some not as useful but fun skills on YouTube:

  • Rubix Cube
  • Ukulele
  • Drawing
  • Juggling
  • Unicycling

Taking time to learn skills you want is great for your mental health and well-being. Doing things you enjoy and challenging your brain makes you feel good and encourages you to be more positive.

When you decide what you want to learn feel free to use YouTube, Google, and books to teach yourself the skill. Know that it takes time and practice. The key to learning a skill is identifying what you are weakest at and continually practicing that. For example, I struggled playing a F chord, but after intentional practice and playing songs with the chord in it I was able to do it.

Here’s my challenge for you:

Take time this weekend to practice a skill that you are trying to learn.

guitar and guitar case with 4-H sticker

This is my guitar and guitar case. I decided for 2021 that I was going to start putting some of my favorite stickers on my guitar case. Notice which sticker I put on first.


Justins Sig

Justin Bower

Logan County 4-H Educator

Thoughts for “The Day After”

“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

James Baldwin, American writer and poet

There comes a time when it is important to think and talk about difficult topics. Today is one of those days. We know what happened: On January 6th at the Capitol legislators were meeting to certify the results of the 2020 election when a mob pushed past police and entered the Capitol building and burst into the chambers. They smashed windows, broke furniture, and trashed offices. Members of Congress were evacuated, and the Capitol went on lockdown. Later in the evening, the legislators reconvened and finished the business they had started. It is a day that is now part of our collective history and will be discussed for years to come. But for now I offer some thoughts for “the day after.”

Know that it’s natural to react emotionally to events that occurred–to be worried, confused, angry, or more. Anger is often in the first round of emotions we experience. Anger by itself is not bad, but it may lead people to behave well or badly.

This bundle of emotions is stressful. Here are some suggestions for what young people can do to manage stress:

  • Express your emotions in a healthy way – write, draw, listen to music, talk to a friend.
  • Reach out to adults in your life who will listen and let you voice your feelings.
  • Engage in mindfulness-based practices, such as breathing exercises and getting out in nature.
  • Seek facts from credible news sources and consult more than one source.

By writing this post, I realized that I took my own advice – I wrote down my thoughts.

Our country is facing a crisis; how will we face it? What will we do when the emotions of “the day after” subside? There is no one right way. As we go forward, the discussions that take place might get uncomfortable. But in that discomfort is where our growth lies.

When I’m struggling with my emotions, I often turn to the words of others to give me guidance (as you can see, I’ve already used two quotes in this short post). I’ll close tonight with this quote from Thurgood Marshall, civil rights activist and first African American Supreme Court Justice.

“Where you see wrong or inequality or injustice, speak out, because this is your country. This is your democracy. Make it. Protect it. Pass it on.”

Yours in Health,


Why Mental Health Matters

Scrabble tiles spelling "mental health matters"

   Mental Health Matters in 4-H!

What is mental health? Mental health is a very broad term referring to our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It’s about how people think, feel, and behave. Just like the definition for overall health, mental health is not only the absence of mental illness, it also refers to the presence of positive characteristics. Ohio 4-H is promoting mental health in January. In today’s post we discuss why mental health matters.

Why mental health matters

Mental health is important because it determines how people handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Positive mental health is important because it allows people to do the following:

  • Realize their full potential
  • Cope with the stresses of life
  • Be productive
  • Make meaningful connections to others
  • Make contributions to their communities

Your mental health can change over time. It depends on many factors. Having good mental health doesn’t mean that people never go through bad times. Experiencing setbacks is inevitable – it’s part of life. It means we have the tools to cope with life’s challenges. It helps us keep problems in perspective and bounce back from those setbacks.

image of coronavirus and sign "pandemic #covid19"One of those challenges we are all dealing with now is the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 plunged us into a world of Zoom meetings in place of our usual face-to-face interactions. Life has been turned upside down by stay-at-home orders, school and business closures, and social distancing guidelines. We want nothing more than to return to normal, but are not sure when that will be. If you are struggling with mental health issues, you are not alone. A new survey commissioned by the National 4-H Council in the wake of COVID-19 found that 7 in 10 teens are struggling with mental health issues.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • 81% of teens say mental health is a significant issue for young people in the U.S.
  • 55% of teens say they’ve experienced anxiety, 45% excessive stress, and 43% depression
  • 71% of those surveyed say schoolwork makes them feel anxious or depressed
  • 65% of those surveyed say uncertainty about the future makes them feel anxious or depressed

Everyone can benefit from learning ways to maintain and improve mental health. Some ways that people can keep mentally healthy are: Health Post-it notes

When the demands placed on us are greater than our resources and ability to cope, it can have an impact on our mental health. Reaching out to get help is not a sign of weakness. Some mental health situations may call for professional help. If you or someone you know needs to be connected to professional resources, Ohio State University’s Center for Public Health Practice has put together Mental Health Resource Guides. Go to, find the county you need, and select it to bring up local resources.

In 4-H we pledge our “health to better living” – that means mental health too. How are you helping your 4-H club learn about mental health? Download the Journal-Page-What-Can- My-4-H-Club-Do-to-Address-Mental-Health to get started on making a plan for what you can do to address mental health in your club.

Check out our Mental Health Month resources. And come back for more information and ideas!

Yours in Health,


Dimensions of Wellness

Health and wellness are broad concepts. The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” That means that being healthy is more than just not being sick. Overall wellness includes many areas. It means being healthy in many areas of our lives. Achieving wellness is a lifelong process of “making the best better.” International Mind-Body Wellness Day gives us an opportunity to reflect on the many dimensions of wellness and the connections between body and mind.

Every aspect of wellness can affect a person’s life. The Eight Dimensions of Wellness take into account not only a person’s physical health, but all the things that contribute to a person’s overall wellness. These dimensions are interconnected, each one building on the other.

Eight Dimensions of Wellness

8 Dimensions of Wellness

Eight Dimensions of Wellness

  • physical
  • emotional
  • social
  • intellectual
  • environmental
  • spiritual
  • vocational/occupational
  • financial

For an overview of what each dimension entails, you can view a short 3-minute video from Northwestern University.

Creating balance in our lives is an important part of wellness. When we’re trying to get through a tough time—whether it is stress, an illness, trauma, or an emotional challenge—balance is especially important. In these times, our habits and routines can help us get that feeling of control back. This means focusing on ourselves as well as the roles we play in the lives of others including family member, friend, classmate, and club member.

Maybe you made a New Year’s resolution related to improving some aspect of your health. But maybe, with so many areas to consider, it can seem overwhelming to know where to start. In our posts, we’re going to break it down into more manageable chunks, day by day and week by week.

To start the new year off, we’re offering the Healthy Body Healthy Mind SPIN (special interest) Club to learn fun ways to keep your body and mind healthy. This SPIN club will be offered virtually through Zoom, with live sessions on Tuesdays from 5:30-6:30pm for 6 weeks starting January 19, 2021.

  • When: January 19 and 26 and February 2, 9, 16, and 23 from 5:30-6:30pm
  • Where: Zoom (link sent after registering)
  • Who: This SPIN Club is open to all 4-H ages youth 8 to 18.
  • What: 4-H professionals Frances Foos, Lori Now, Amanda Raines, and Cassie Turner will lead you through Yoga for Kids, games, activities, and more, all from the comfort of your home.
  • Cost: It’s free to participate, but some supplies will be suggested for activities.
  • Register here by January 14.
Promotion for Healthy Body Healthy Mind SPIN Club

Register by January 14 for the Healthy Body Healthy Mind SPIN Club

We’ll be addressing these dimension of wellness throughout the month of January, Ohio 4-H’s Mental Health Month. Come back for more information and ideas!

Yours in Health,


Adapted from: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016). Creating a healthier life: A step-by-step guide to wellness.

#4hhealthyliving #4thH #Ohio4Hmhm #MentalHealthMatters #4HGrowsHere

Give Yourself a New Year’s Resolution Break

Self-Care Saturday New Year's Resolution Break

Give Yourself a New Year’s Resolution Break

Should you make a New Year’s resolution for 2021? It’s a time-honored tradition – making a New Year’s resolution. With the turn of a calendar page, the start of a new year presents a clean slate. Research conducted at the University of Pennsylvania found that tying goals to specific dates, or what they called the fresh start effect, can help people to be more effective at setting and achieving goals related to changing their behaviors. Like the 4-H motto, many of us want to “make the best better.” However, after the challenges of 2020, 2021 may be the time to give yourself a New Year’s resolution break.

I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t think about the coming year and what you might want to accomplish. By giving yourself a break, I mean being kind to yourself about what’s possible, especially given the current circumstances. Although setting goals can be a motivator, making too much change in a time of chronic stress can be have the opposite effect – it can actually increase our stress level and sidetrack us from taking action. Then when we don’t achieve our goal, we get discouraged and give up.

If you do decide to create a New Year’s resolution this year, here are some tips:

  •  Set small, specific goals. Setting small, specific goals will help you experience more immediate success, especially if your goal is one with delayed rewards.
  •  Accentuate the positive. Researchers in Sweden found that those who what they called approach-oriented goals were significantly more successful than those with avoidance-oriented goals. In other words, focus on what you want to do, not on what you don’t want to do (e.g., eat 3 servings of vegetables a day vs. don’t eat junk food).
  • Make a plan. Having a goal is great, but how will you achieve it? A resolution without a plan for achieving it will likely not succeed. Come up with some concrete things you can do and when you will do them.
  • Write it down. Writing helps you remember your goal and the steps in your plan. Tape your goal in a place where you will see it to remind yourself.
  • Get support. Identify a support person and give them periodic updates on your progress. The Swedish researchers found that group that received some support was more successful at keeping their resolutions.

Not surprisingly, health is at the top of the list for New Year’s resolutions. Throughout the month of January, we’ll share more information and ideas for keeping healthy in 2021.

Use this page to think about a New Year’s resolution.

Yours in Health,


#4hhealthyliving #4thH #Ohio4Hmhm #MentalHealthMatters #4HGrowsHere


Start the New Year with Gratitude – Make a Gratitude Jar

Gratitude Jar, jar with slips of paper

Make a Gratitude Jar

The start of a new year is an opportunity to pause and reflect on what has been and what lies ahead. For many reasons, 2020 is a year many people would like to forget. Stay-at-home orders, the resulting school and business closures, and social distancing guidelines changed how we lived our lives during a global pandemic. It is natural and healthy to be disappointed when experiencing a loss. But it is equally important to recognize and appreciate what we have in our life. Gratitude reverses our priorities to help us appreciate the people and things we do have. As one way to start the new year with gratitude, make a Gratitude Jar.

Gratitude is defined as an appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself; it is a general state of thankfulness and/or appreciation. Gratitude has a variety of benefits that help promote healthy development. Research shows that people who think about the good things in their life tend to be happier and less depressed.

Here is how to fill the Gratitude Jar.

  1. Think of at least three good things each day and write each on a separate slip of paper. This “good stuff” can be something great that happened, or it can just be something more ordinary. The point is the reflect and write it down.
  2. Put the slips in the Gratitude Jar.
  3. At the end of the month (or other amount of time), you can look back through the slips and reflect and be reminded of all the “good stuff” that has happened. It is also something to do on a holiday such as Thanksgiving or New Year’s Eve. You may be surprised to see how the “little things” have added up.

This practice is easy on “good days.” But on a “bad day” or when you think things are not going so well in your life, the good stuff won’t always be so easy to find. That’s where you may have to do some hunting to find the good stuff. We sometimes refer to this as “finding the silver lining in a cloud” or “turning lemons into lemonade.” Here’s an example: One night I was working late, and as I drove home a song came on the radio. Despite not having heard it in years, I could sing every word. It was late and I was tired, but hearing that song brought a smile to my face. That was one of the things I wrote for my gratitude jar that night. And I still remember it, even though it was 7 years ago!

It may take time for expressing gratitude to become a habit. And you may not feel the positive effects of expressing gratitude right away. But research shows that you should stick with it. Researchers at the University of California Berkeley concluded that practicing gratitude may help train the brain to be more sensitive to the experience of gratitude down the line, and this could contribute to improved mental health over time.

If you want to take the next step in expressing gratitude, write a note to express your gratitude to someone. Recent research shows that actually expressing your gratitude to someone else may be particularly effective. Not only will you feel good, but sharing your appreciation to a teacher, family member, or friend will surely make their day.

You can download directions for the Gratitude Jar here.

Gratitude Jar directions

Directions for Making a Gratitude Jar

Adapted from Coping with COVID: Lesson Plans to Promote Mental, Emotional, and Social Health.

Yours in Health,


Theresa Ferrari, Extension Specialist, 4-H Youth Development

Daily Dose- Happy Mother’s Day

Picture of My Mom and I

My Mom and I

According to the History Channel, The American incarnation of Mother’s Day was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908 and became an official U.S. holiday in 1914. We celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of May every year. The founder Anna created the holiday as a way for people to thank their own Mother and spend time with that special woman in their life. CNN’s article on Mother’s Day gives some of the specifics of the origin including the insight that Jarvis’ Mother was a community health advocate! Below is an excerpt.

“In 1908, Jarvis campaigned for a national observance of the holiday in honor of her mother, who was a community health advocate. Her mom had organized several Mother’s Day Work Clubs that addressed child rearing and public health issues, and Jarvis wanted to commemorate her and the work of all mothers.”

As we experience Mother’s Day this year it is important to look at the core of what Mother’s Day means and find ways to spend time with our Mother (even if that means digitally this year). Sometimes we take for granted the time we spend with family. Think about what it truly means to spend time with someone. What does it look like? How does it make you feel?

For me, spending time with my Mother is often creative. We work on calendars, journals, crafts, and some of my favorite early memories with my mother were doing crafts and activities at home. I have acquired her hobby of cutting out pictures in magazines, greeting cards, and reusing them in my calendar and journal entries.  It usually includes us sitting on the couch, talking over upcoming events, and relaxing. It helps me feel connected to her, more relaxed, and provides a wonderful creative outlet while completing what we are working on. Use today’s journal to spend some time with your Mom and learn more about her!

Today’s journal is a fun one to do with your Mom! Answer the questions about her and then see how well you do! It is harder than it may seem.




Daily Dose- What is Self-Care?

Have you felt yourself being more emotional lately? Maybe it is harder to decide what you want to do, or you are feeling “on edge?” According to The Cleveland Clinic these can be signs of stress. The feelings that we get when things in our life are uncertain can add to our stress. There are many ways you can help deal with these feelings, but one of my favorites is to take some time for self-care.

Self-care is making sure we pay attention to our own well-being (whether that be mental, emotional, or physical). It is taking some time to purposefully do things that make you feel good about yourself. Although this sounds simple, it is often something we overlook.

Self-care is not being selfish. If you have ever flown on a plane, you’ve heard the flight attendants tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping someone else. Self-care is your oxygen mask. And it is especially important in these times of uncertainty.

Here are some suggestions about how to practice self-care.

  1. Find ways to express how you feel, especially if you don’t know what it is you are feeling. Talk to a friend or trusted adult.
  2. Make time for low-stress activities to do by yourself. One such activity I like is coloring or doing craft projects.
  3. Listen to your favorite music.
  4. Get outside. Take a walk. Bring your pet along if you have one!
  5. Do a puzzle.
  6. Have a routine (brush your teeth, get dressed, eat breakfast).

The current challenging times mean that self-care is more important than ever. Practicing good self-care can help you tackle life’s challenges. But self-care isn’t only for times of stress. Regular self-care is good for you when times are good. It can help you be more resilient to face new challenges.

Today’s Journal allows you to write in some ideas you may have about self-care for yourself! Maybe it is something you do by yourself, or something that you decide to do with your family at home. Be creative when you can’t get together face-to-face – you can even do virtual self-care sessions with your friends and family.

Download Today’s Journal

In Great Love,