Reflection #4 on Mental Health Awareness All Year Long with Kecia McDonald and Barbara Bray

By Barbara Bray

Join Barbara Bray in conversations with awesome educators, leaders, and influencers as they talk about their passion and purpose for planting seeds for change. Each podcast has a link to a related blog post with more information and resources.

I am so honored to know Kecia McDonald and to learn why mental health awareness is important all the time. Kecia is Curriculum Coordinator at Kealakehe Intermediate School and a certified health teacher for K-12. I reached out to Kecia to reflect on positive mental health. 
What is good mental health? Why is it a right to have good mental health?
Kecia: According to the World Health Organization, it’s “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” There’s a lot to unpack in just that sentence, so let me dive a little deeper into what it looks like.
Good mental health is characterized by a person’s ability to fulfill a number of key functions and activities, including the ability to learn; the ability to feel, express and manage a range of positive and negative emotions; the ability to form and maintain good relationships with others. (learn, self regulate, communicate, collaborate) Ultimately, good mental health is about being cognitively, emotionally, and socially healthy – the way we think, feel, and develop relationships – and not merely the absence of a mental health condition.
Signs of good mental health are:

you are confident when faced with new situations or people.
you feel optimistic.
you don’t always blame yourself.
you set goals.
you feel good about yourself.
you have good self-esteem.

Doesn’t that sound like something every human being has the right to? And wouldn’t the world be a better place if everyone did?
Why are the stories of the struggles that students, teachers, and families are going through real?
Barbara: The struggles are real for everyone during this pandemic. Work, businesses, banking, and school as we know them have been completely disrupted at all levels. There are many people who are “essential” workers who work as first responders, medical personnel in hospitals, delivering packages and so many more including our teachers who are our heroes. With the stay-at-home order, families are working from home and trying to balance work, parenting, and being responsible for their children’s learning. Teachers are responsible and still held accountable for what their students are learning yet not every family has access. Family, friends, and teachers who I know on social media have reached out to me to share their frustrations. There really is no way they could teach the same way they taught face-to-face. But many teachers have never taught online before. Teachers who are also parents mentioned that distractions make it difficult to teach. 
After many weeks of “sheltering-in-place,” people are experiencing quarantine fatigue. The news is scary and living in an uncertain world is troubling. The challenge for teachers will be how to continue to build culture and keep the relationships going with students and families in a remote and possibly a hybrid environment.
What do teaching and learning look like now and how will it look later after COVID 19?
Kecia: Right now, teaching and learning look like a wide range of realities being experienced by individuals all over the map, on extreme ends of the spectrum. Let me give you a few examples directly related to the mental health of our com…