May, which is Mental Health Month, is an opportune time to unpack the World Health Organization’s definition of mental wellness, characterized as “a state of well-being in which individuals realize their own abilities, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and contribute to their communities.”

Realizing your own abilities is crucial and understanding your value is key.  Tally your skills, talents, and abilities to function in various roles as student, worker, and in relationships. Seek to be productive in those roles, setting goals you wish to accomplish and working towards them. Be willing to look ahead and develop a vision of what you want to see and what you want to be.

In order to be hopeful and optimistic about the future, be kind to your mind, and engage in positive self-talk. Sometimes, people can be so hard on themselves. Ease up on self-criticism and be kind to yourself. Avoid self-deprecation and succumbing to comparison culture. Hold yourself in high esteem.  Be conscious of your worth and your value. Resist the urge to participate in self-invalidation. Make deposits into your optimism account. Maintain a positive psychological balance sheet with the rewards outweighing the risks. Doing this will yield dividends of well-being.

As we contemplate the building blocks of mental health, we should review our internal portfolios and think about what barriers get in our way. For young people of color, racism is one of those obstacles that disrupts our mental health. Another “ism”- perfectionism – prevents us from accepting our mistakes gracefully and placing them in the debit account. When perfectionism is combined with the effects of racism, young people of color may be tempted to hold themselves to an unrealistic standard in an effort to refute negative racial stereotypes. Resist getting caught up in perfectionism as it is not a good investment of our time and energy and could put us outside the margin of profitability. Perfection is the enemy of the good. Practice self-reflection to center yourself and find a balance that is good enough.

Find ways to adapt to change. We all have to play the hand we were dealt. When encountering a difficult situation, think it through and connect with a thought partner who you trust if you need a supporter to bear witness to the psychological stress you are facing. Be introspective–look inside yourself and ask yourself questions as you navigate life’s twists and turns and ups and downs. How will pursuing one path vs. another lead to the desired goal? Is there a need to conduct an appraisal, recalibrate and possibly change course?  Do the risks of taking a new course of action outweigh the benefits? Weigh the pros and cons. Take an inventory of your assets. Do an audit of your actions and be accountable to yourself. The comedian, Moms Mabley said, “If you always do what you always did you will always get what you always got.” One way to adapt to change is by participating in civic engagement. For example, serve as a change agent and work with other like-minded people to hold space for a positive future–one which embraces a pluralistic democratic society with people of all backgrounds living in harmony.

Mental health is worth investing in because health is a form of wealth and there is no health without mental health. By extension, we can conclude that mental health is a form of mental wealth and a bottom-line which is definitely worth the investment.