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This World Mental Health Awareness Day, Here Are Five Key Ways You Can Help Promote Mental Wellness

Monday, October 10, 2022

By Kelley Kitley

World Mental Health Awareness Day gives us an opportunity to spread awareness and provide hope for those who are suffering. Our country is in a mental health crisis and nobody is immune: mental illness impacts all of us, regardless of our age, culture, profession, or socioeconomic status. Now, more than ever, we need to prioritize mental health as much as we do physical health.

I know firsthand what it is like to struggle with poor mental health. Mental illness and the substance abuse gene run rampant in my family. This is one of the reasons why I knew at a young age that I wanted to become a therapist—by the time I was twenty, I had already had my fair share of therapy to work through my parents’ divorce, an eating disorder, and trauma.

I decided to apply for a graduate internship in addiction treatment because I wanted to learn as much as I could about the way it had impacted my family and how I could hopefully dodge the bullet myself. Growing up above my parents’ bar in Chicago, we lived in an alcohol-saturated culture. I was a binge drinker in college and throughout my twenties, but I could always give it up for three months of marathon training, Dry January, or Lent. The issue was that once I started drinking again, I didn’t seem to have a shut-off valve.

When we get honest and vulnerable with one another, change happens.

In 2013, I had four kids under the age of seven. I was at the height of my career and alcohol abuse snuck up on me. I felt overwhelmed, and scattered. I couldn’t sleep despite the fact that I was constantly exhausted. I became irritable and couldn’t wait to pour a glass of wine at the end of my workday to take the edge off.

From there, it was a rapid decline. As a professional in the field, logically, I knew alcohol was a depressant and would make my symptoms of anxiety and panic worse but in the moment, it calmed my racing thoughts and the intense pressure I felt in my chest.

For 6 months, I became a daily wine drinker. Well honestly, I wasn’t one to turn down any type of alcohol. Sometimes I would be able to have just two drinks without incident but more often than not, my drinking resulted in a painful hangover, saying or doing things I regretted, and a general dislike of myself. I wanted to check out from life and alcohol helped me do that, albeit temporarily.

On March 10, 2013, I decided to give up alcohol for good. I didn’t have a traditional ‘rock bottom,’ but a string of regret for not being the best wife, mom, or psychotherapist I knew I was and could be. My best friend had given up alcohol two months before me and I witnessed her transformation. She had a sense of clarity, calm, and confidence I had never seen in our twenty years of friendship. I wanted what she had and followed in her footsteps.

Today, I am nearly ten years sober. I’ve written an autobiography that was adapted into a short film that I travel around the world sharing with the hope of educating others about mental health and alcohol abuse. I’ve been the face in the media shedding light on ‘Mom Drinking Culture’ to break the silence and stigma so that nobody has to suffer in silence.

Mental health issues don’t just go away on their own: they need to be addressed and treated.

I still grapple with anxiety, overthinking, overachieving and perfectionism—all of which used to lead me to drink—but the difference today is that I have a daily practice for my mental health maintenance.

I get up early, sit in silence, light a candle and write down everything I’m grateful for. I connect deeply with other women who are also practicing a sober life. I pray, meditate, and move my body. I positively affirm myself, and I try to keep things simple and practice self-compassion. As a result, I get to show up every day in sound mind and body. My marriage is stronger than it’s ever been. I’m no longer embarrassed by my behavior and get to be a role model to our children. Most importantly, I actually like myself.

Mental health issues don’t just go away on their own: they need to be addressed and treated. As a mom of four—ages 16, 14, 12, and 10—there’s a high likelihood that one of them will experience a mental health or substance abuse issue. We have an open dialogue about taking care of our mental health, which includes regular check-ins. Usually, I’m met with annoyance and told that I ask too many questions, but they know they can talk to me or my husband.

Navigating the world as adults and parents can be a daunting task. However, I’m confident that we are moving in the right direction. Certainly, there’s more awareness and less shame around mental health than when I was an adolescent.

When we get honest and vulnerable with one another, change happens.

There are five key things you can do in your daily life to help promote mental wellness in yourself and in those you love. Don’t wait until you or your family are in crisis. We need to take charge of our mental health and be proactive!

  1. Normalize talking about mental health with friends, family, colleagues, and medical providers.

  2. Practicing proper mental health hygiene includes sleep, nutrition, and physical activity.

  3. Check in with yourself by logging mood and feelings on a daily or weekly basis.

  4. Ask your doctor for a referral to a licensed professional if feelings such as low mood or increased anxiety persist longer than two weeks.

  5. Don’t be in distress, alone. Text or call, 988. It’s free, confidential, and available 24/7. Talk with certified crisis counselors for support in a mental health crisis. Trained counselors will listen, understand how your problems are affecting you, provide support, and connect you to resources if necessary.


Kelley Kitley is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 20 years of experience in the field. Kitley owns a boutique private practice, Serendipitous Psychotherapy in downtown Chicago, specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy.

She’s a renowned international speaker, covering topics such as women and alcohol abuse, mental health, sexual assault, and parenting. Kitley is a media expert who has appeared on The Drew Barrymore Show, Tamron Hall Show, TODAY, CNN, Access Live, Dr. Oz, and Dr. Drew.

Kitley is also the “go-to expert” on all things health and wellness for tv appearances in Chicago. Her memoir, MY Self: An Autobiography of Survival, is an award-winning, Amazon bestseller and has been adapted into a short film, Gray Area. Kitley is a wife and mom of 4, who resides in the Chicagoland area.