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Prioritizing mental health key amid negative news, personal challenges

St. Joseph News-Press - 5/17/2024

May 15—In an age where tragedy is only a click away, navigating constant negativity can take a toll on mental health.

Seeing news and media surrounding wars, protests, death and more can be especially taxing for young people.

"I think it's important that we just remember to stay positive," said Samantha Davis, a counselor at Lafayette High School. "Getting together and being with a community, talking to someone when you need some maybe additional support who can help you get through those rough patches and to a better day."

Davis said listening to kids talk about all aspects of their lives is part of the job. Just being present goes a long way.

"I think it's just important to especially for students or parents, when their children are being upset, it's just to help and be present," Davis said. "A lot of times kids will kind of take their cues from the adults in the situation. So I think it's best if we remain calm."

It's not just on the news, it is in real life as well. Curveballs can be thrown at anyone at any time, and it can be hard to keep moving when this happens.

St. Joseph resident Barbara Voshell shared her story with News-Press NOW of how she had to cope with an unexpected life-altering event.

In 1975, Voshell was in a coma for eight days after falling 40 feet in a sledding accident. She said she lost most of her memory and her ability to read and write, and her personality was substantially changed.

"Six weeks after my accident I was back in college trying to play catch-up," Voshell said. "For me, the hardest adjustment was the new personality. Before the traumatic brain injury, I was extremely shy; after, I never met a stranger."

The recovery involved mental gymnastics to hurdle some of the issues.

"In TBI recovery does not mean regaining the person you were. Instead, you learn how to become the person you are capable of becoming," Voshell said. "In the process you lose, gain and often lose again the people you knew or come to know."

Years later, she discovered she has idiopathic neuropathy and was told she would only have a few years to live. Blessed to be alive, she shared how she was able to be positive in this time.

"Don't overthink. 'What if's' will stop all forward movement. Second, trust that you have the ability to get through anything," she said in a message. "Third, accept that you will not be the same after this event knowing that we each change daily as we age. Fourth, go through stress with the eyes of a child. Are you scared? Of course. But, look at the wonder that is still happening. As the Annie song 'Tomorrow' tells us, the sun will come out again, this sorrow will pass, this event will eventually be in the past."

Voshell emphasized that amid the stress life can bring, it's important to find moments of positivity through it all.

"Don't forget to laugh. You will survive," she said. "If it should happen that you don't, well, stressing, moaning, crying, none of that would have made one bit of difference, so you might as well laugh through the journey. If nothing else it will confuse everyone around you."

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