This post is authored by By Jennifer Clark, LMSW and Mickey Desai.
In Usagi Medical Group’s ongoing series to help you maximize your con-going experience, we’ve compiled a short list of tips and resources that you may find useful if you or someone you know is suffering from some variety of mental-health issues during your con. These issues are not always easy to identify, and may range from anxiety attacks to self-esteem problems, addictions to body-image issues, or even just good old-fashioned depression.
A quick reminder that the UsagiMed room(s) are always available as Safe Spaces to anyone who needs them. UsagiMed provides non-judgmental service and support and welcomes anyone who feels they need a safe, quiet place to rest at any time during the con. If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed-out, isolated (yes, it happens in crowds), just need to chill out, or need someone to talk to, visit the UsagiMed people at your con.
Your con may have additional spaces: At Anime Weekend Atlanta, Safe Spaces are designated with a teal ribbon (which is the ribbon for anxiety and ptsd awareness) and the words “Safe Space” on them. Hospitality Services offers space to both crew and con goers. Accessibility Services has designated areas as well. Check with your convention to see what resources are available.
If you or someone you know is struggling, here are some quick tips and coping strategies:
- Get connected. In the world of mental-health, even tiny moments of connection and understanding can have a tremendous impact for someone who might be struggling. It is too easy to suffer silently. It may seem preferable to isolate. Instead, reach out to your friends–the people you trust. There’s no harm in saying, “I’m having a hard time with this. I think I need a minute.”
- Similarly, let your friends know you care. If you should happen to see someone struggling, don’t try to fix them. Ask them if they’re okay. If they want to talk about it, just listen. Don’t offer solutions. Don’t try to diagnose. Don’t try to fix anything. Simply listen to your friend. Let them know you care for them, and that you will support them in their journey towards being emotionally healthy.
- Remember your boundaries with other people. In your day to day life, you have developed coping skills to help you deal with other people and stressors. These don’t have to fall away simply because you are at con. Remember what your triggers and warning signs look like. Avoid the drama llamas who you know might be triggering. Don’t be afraid to share your boundaries with your con buddies, so they can help you enforce them as well.
- Know your healthy patterns, keep to them as much as you can at con. How much sleep do you usually need to keep your mental health on track? How much daily caffeine do you normally take? When and how much do you eat on a daily basis to keep healthy? When you’re at con, it’s too easy to deviate from “normal,” and you will crash, which brings an end to your fun. Stick to your routine as much as you are able.
- If you can’t stick to your regular routine, please Eat Healthy and Take Rest. Give your body the resources it needs to be healthy. If you eat poorly, don’t get enough water, and run yourself into the ground, your body will find ways to make you stop and rest even if you don’t want to. Or worse, you might become a grumpy bastard if you don’t get enough sleep and try to compensate with too much caffeine. (Trust us, nothing good comes of this.) So plan accordingly, employ the 5-2-1 rule, and treat yourself right.
- TAKE YOUR MEDS! Do we really need to tell you this? You know what happens when you don’t take your meds? Bad things. Bad things happen. Take your freakin’ meds, already. Sheesh.
If you need some extra help, UsagiMed will support you in finding it. Help may not be that far away. Please follow this link for a list of nationally available resources.
The quest to mental health begins with you, but remember that you are not alone in that journey.