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The Art of Healing: Join Dr. Katherine Jackson and Others at the 15th Annual Pat Risser RSVP Conference

The 15th Annual Pat Risser RSVP Conference will explore “The Art of Wellness” on March 27, 2024. This year’s conference will offer a dynamic and informative exploration of creative arts therapies for trauma recovery and holistic health. 

Participants can attend in person at Mount Vernon Estates in Ashland, Ohio, or virtually via Zoom from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The conference will showcase a lineup of distinguished speakers, with a special focus on creative arts therapies and their impact on mental health and wellbeing.

Utilizing Creative Arts Therapies to Facilitate Trauma Recovery and Holistic Health

The conference will be headlined by Dr. Katherine Jackson, widely known as “Dr. Kate,” Associate Professor and psychotherapist with over 35 years of experience. Dr. Kate is a board-certified art therapist, registered yoga teacher, health coach, and a trained telehealth provider.

Creative therapeutic approaches—such as music, drama, dance/movement, and art therapies—have taken off in the last 80 years, all geared to help individuals cope, heal, and deal with stressors as well as acute and chronic mental health issues. 

Recent research in the last 20 years has shown that not only do creative therapies help in healing, but there is evidence to suggest that these types of therapies help in brain neuroplasticity. Not only have creative arts therapies been shown to improve neuroplasticity but also contribute strongly to holistic health and general wellness in folks who practice some form of creativity on a regular basis. Additional research has shown that adding creative approaches within a talk therapy venue can enhance and strengthen cognitive learning.

Dr. Kate will provide examples of ways to incorporate creative arts to help individuals dealing with trauma and other mental health challenges. 

About Dr. Katherine Jackson

Dr. Katherine Jackson, or “Dr. Kate,” works with clients who are experiencing depression, anxiety, life transitions, body-image issues, health at every size/body positivity, ADHD, trauma, and couples and family therapy. She uses holistic, creative arts, and wellness principles to help individuals, couples, and families realize their full potential and learn to cope with life stressors.

She teaches as a full-time Associate Professor at Ursuline College in the Master of Counseling and Art Therapy Program. She started the service-learning program at Ursuline College in 2012, where she takes students, alumni, and community members to Nepal, South Africa and Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota, to volunteer with underprivileged and marginalized people.

Dr. Kate has presented nationally and internationally on various topics including multicultural competency, service learning, creative arts therapies, anxiety/depression, and holistic wellness.

About the Pat Risser RSVP Conference

The Pat Risser RSVP Conference is an annual gathering that provides a platform for professionals and individuals interested in mental health and wellness to explore innovative approaches, share knowledge, and foster collaboration. Sponsored by the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Ashland County, the conference covers a wide range of topics related to mental health, with a focus on inclusivity, creativity, and holistic well-being.

Visit LINK to register for the RSVP Conference March 27. We look forward to an enlightening and informative day together!

When the Holidays Hurt: Hope for the Hardest Time of the Year

When December arrives and brings with it the brightest time of the year, it also brings darkness in equal measure to those grieving the loss of a loved one. 

If that describes you, you may not know how to navigate this season that once brought so much joy. When you see others celebrating, their families, lives, and hearts intact while yours feels fractured, you may find it difficult to do much of anything—and this is more than okay.  

If you’re not sure how to endure the holidays when they hurt, you’re not alone. The following tips may help you find your way through December’s darkness. 


Be extra kind to yourself. Don’t judge yourself for grieving while others celebrate. Accept all your feelings, regardless of how unpleasant they may be, as valid parts of the grieving process. Think of how you’d treat a grieving loved one—and then be just as patient and kind with yourself as you would be with them. 

Make room for your grief. While it’s tempting to try and push away the pain that comes with loss—as if it could be banished simply by shoving it out the door and telling it to take a hike—it’s likely to show up again, ever the unwanted guest. 

Instead of pushing it away, make room for grief during the holidays. Expect to experience it. Set aside time to sit with it—looking at pictures of or letters from your lost loved one. In doing so, you’ll recognize grief’s ongoing presence as proof of your enduring love for the one no longer with you. 

Lean on your loved ones. Before December arrives, let your nearest and dearest loved ones know you need their help during the holidays. Make it official by scheduling time with them, knowing they’ll understand if you need to cancel. Don’t worry about being a burden—the thought of you suffering alone would be more of a burden to the people who love you most and best. 

Honor lost loved ones through holiday observations. Did your loved one have a favorite holiday pie, tradition, or perhaps a cherished Christmas carol? You may find that continuing to include these elements in your holiday observations is a meaningful way to acknowledge the memory of your loved one. 

If including them would only cause grief, however, consider instituting a new holiday tradition that might honor his or her memory instead. It’s up to you—do whatever is most comfortable or helpful for you as you grieve. 


If you have a loved one who is grieving during this holiday season, there are many things you can do that may prove helpful. 

Just check in. Call, email, text, or visit your grieving loved one to see how he’s doing. Checking in reminds him that he’s not alone in the world, and affirms that you’re a person he can turn to if he needs help on a particularly dark December day. 

Offer to make food. People who are grieving struggle to take care of themselves. Offering to make food for your loved one is a wonderful way to help him stay afloat. Inviting him over for dinner may also address his social needs, which also tend to go by the wayside when grief enters the picture. 

Another option: Set up a meal train for your loved one. With this option, a whole group of people who care about your loved one can take turns providing meals for him when he’s too blue to cook for himself. Being taken care of this way is something he’ll never forget, too.

Offer to help with everyday tasks. Just as grieving people sometimes struggle to eat regularly, your loved one may also find himself behind on laundry, buying groceries, or running other errands. Ask him if there’s anything you can help with, and let him know it’s not an inconvenience. 

Listen. If your grieving loved one reaches out to you, be prepared to listen. Lend him both ears. While you’re at it, lend him your shoulder to cry on, too. 

If you or your loved one need additional help, but are not sure where to find it, check out the many helpful resources available on the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Ashland County’s website. Visit us online—or call us at (419) 281-3139—and let us know if you need help. Just remember: When the holidays hurt, you don’t need to endure the pain alone. 


Guys, the Struggle Is Real: Your Mental Health Matters

If you feel like the weight of the world is pressing down on you, you aren’t alone. 

In 2021, SAMHSA reported that young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 had the highest prevalence of any mental illness (any mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder, regardless of severity). 

Every third person you pass on campus, every third friend in your social media feed, every third fellow high school graduate trying to make it in a new and overwhelming world—33.7% of all 18-25 year olds are carrying silent burdens.

And only 44.6% of those people received mental health services in 2021.

What Kinds of Issues Are Young Men Facing?

Some of the most common mental health issues men in this age range are facing include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Substance misuse
  • Body image issues
  • Identity and self-esteem issues
  • Social isolation and loneliness
  • Relationship challenges
  • Academic pressure
  • Financial stress

These issues can affect any generation, but they seem to be particularly prevalent for young men between the ages of 18 and 25. 

Maybe you’re feeling pressure to live up to and curate a life that matches the images and lifestyles you see on social media. 

Maybe economic uncertainty surrounding career prospects or student loan debt are contributing to stress and anxiety about the future.

Even though you’re connected digitally all day and night, you can’t help but feel disconnected and alone. 

Family relationships have changed, you have (or don’t have) a serious partner, you are (or aren’t) making major life decisions, and your friend groups have evolved or completely turned over. Maybe you don’t even see those people anymore. 

New jobs in the adult world following high school or college have made it difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance. What does that even mean?

Maybe the changing landscape surrounding traditional gender roles has left you feeling unsure about what society expects of you. How are you supposed to behave? What is your role? Who are you, really?

And don’t even mention the barrage of constant news, wars and rumors of wars, raging political opinions, and melting ice caps.

But Doesn’t Everyone Feel This Way?

Everyone feels anxious, overwhelmed, or depressed at some point in their life. These are common human experiences

There are a lot of reasons why you might be feeling anxious, irritable, stressed, worried, or angry. 

But that doesn’t mean you need to feel this way all of the time. That doesn’t mean you have to stay in those emotions. That doesn’t mean those emotional reactions have to rule your life.

Your emotions aren’t bad, and they aren’t anything to be ashamed about. But when you try to carry those burdens by yourself for too long, they can build up and start negatively affecting your day-to-day life.

Resources to Support Your Mental Health

There are lots of things you can do to support your own mental health. Here are a few simple places you can start that can make a world of difference for how you’re feeling:

  • Talk about it. Remember, a third of your peers are likely also dealing with similar thoughts and emotions. Just talking to someone can be a powerful way to alleviate stress. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a friend or family member, you might seek out a mental health professional, pastor, or counselor.
  • Eat, sleep, and move your body. Your diet and your sleep affect your mental health in substantial ways. Establish a regular sleep schedule, maintain a balanced diet, and make time for physical activities.
  • Disconnect from screens. You don’t have to go cold turkey, but take a break from social media and other streaming content services every once in a while. Set boundaries for yourself and unplug regularly to engage in the non-digital world.
  • Connect with people. All that time you gain from reducing your screen time can go into maintaining and cultivating real-life relationships, face-to-face. We are social beings. We need to be with each other.

Oh, and Also, You Can Seek Professional Help

If you feel like you’re in a rut you can’t get out of, there’s no shame in seeking help from a mental health professional. Therapists can provide you with a wealth of tools and coping mechanisms that can help you manage stress and navigate your mental health concerns. 

Counselors aren’t going to pick your brain and make you go somewhere you don’t want to go. They’re there to hear you out, help you sort through your thoughts, and offer you a few tips for finding your way forward. 

They’re basically your professional friend.

There are lots of different mental health professionals available here in Ashland County. Explore area providers and find more resources to support your mental health on our website.

And, remember, you’re absolutely not alone.

How to Stop a Mass Shooting Epidemic

The Symposium Against Indifference kicked off its 2023-2024 calendar on October 10 with a presentation by Dr. Jillian Peterson, co-author of The Violence Project: How to Stop a Mass Shooting Epidemic.

Dr. Peterson is the co-founder and director of The Violence Project, a non-profit research center that is dedicated to finding data-driven solutions to reducing violence. Her book uses data from groundbreaking research on mass shooters, including first-person accounts from the perpetrators themselves to chart new pathways to prevention and innovative ways to stop the social contagion of violence. The book offers solutions we can do at the individual level, in our communities and as a country, to put an end to these tragedies that have defined our modern era.

The Mental Health and Recovery Board of Ashland County and the Ashland Center for Nonviolence were proud co-sponsors of Dr. Peterson’s recent lecture at Ashland University as part of the Symposium Against Indifference. 

Learn more about The Violence Project or order the book here.

The Symposium Against Indifference: Perspectives on the Mental Health Crisis

Dr. Peterson’s talk was the first in a year-long symposium of guest speakers to Ashland University who will present on an array of topics related to America’s mental health crisis.

On October 26 at 7 p.m. in the Trustees Room of the AU Upper Convocation Center, Jennifer Cheavens, Ph.D., will present “Making Hope Happen: Implications for Mental Health and Wellness.” 

Dr. Cheavens is a professor and director of clinical training in the Department of Psychology at The Ohio State University (OSU). Her research explores whether or not you can intentionally cultivate hope in individuals. Dr. Cheavens will review the data linking hope to valued outcomes as well as offering possibilities for how to make hope happen.

Later this fall, a panel of contributors to the book, Narrative and Grief:

Autoethnographies of Loss will offer excerpts from the book and a discussion about grief and loss on Tuesday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. in the Ronk Lecture Hall of the Schar College of Education.

In the spring, the symposium welcomes Benjamin Storey, Ph.D., to Ashland’s campus for a discussion on “Why We Are Restless: On the Modern Quest for Contentment.” 

We live in an age of unprecedented prosperity, yet everywhere we see signs that our pursuit of happiness has proven fruitless. Dissatisfied, we seek change for the sake of change—even if it means undermining the foundations of our common life. Benjamin Storey argues that the philosophy we have inherited, despite pretending to let us live as we please, produces remarkably homogenous and unhappy lives. He makes the case that finding true contentment requires rethinking our most basic assumptions about happiness. (From Princeton University Press)

This session will be held on Friday, Feb. 23 at 3 p.m. in the Ronk Lecture Hall, Schar College of Education.

The Symposium will conclude with a screening of the film, What I Want You to Know, a documentary produced by two combat veterans that explores the impact of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan both on those who fought and civilians on the ground. The film asks these important questions: What price was paid by those who fought and by civilians caught up in the fighting? Do they think their sacrifices were worth it? How do combat veterans feel about the war and what burdens do they carry? A Zoom call with the veterans and producers of the film will follow the screening.

Learn more about the Symposium Against Indifference and download the brochure for more details.

7 Tips for Seniors’ Next Stage of Living

Some people anticipate the “golden years” with joy and excitement. For others, growing older is met with dread and resignation. If you’re unsure of what the future holds for you—wherever you find yourself along that spectrum—chew on these ideas to make sure your golden years don’t become fool’s gold.

1. Throw Away Archaic Ideas about Getting Older

Due to medical advancements in disease prevention and treatment, increased awareness about preventative health, fewer wars, improved standards of living, and a significant decrease in infant mortality rates, people are living longer. 

Much longer. 

From 1860 to 2020, the United States’ median life expectancy from birth has doubled, from 39 years to nearly 79 years.

Plus, it isn’t just that we’re living longer, we’re also staying active and healthier longer. The National Council on Aging says that on average, a 65-year-old man can expect to live an additional 17 years. “For most older adults, good health ensures independence, security, and productivity as they age.”

So, try to stop thinking about getting older as a countdown to death. Instead, think of it as the next stage of your life.

2. Work Smarter, Not Harder

That being said, our bodies don’t always move the way we expect them to now, the way they did when we were younger. 

Rather than fight through and keep doing things the way you’ve always done them, or worse, give up, look for every opportunity to make your daily chores and activities easier and simpler.

Simplify Bill Pay and Banking

Technology can help you simplify daily tasks that used to take up a lot of your time and energy. Solicit one of your grandkids or tech-savvy sons or daughters to help you find ways to manage your bills easier, set up auto-pay, etc., or stop by your local bank here in Ashland County to ask the attendants what tools are available to you.

Hire or Solicit Help with Hard Labor

Hand over some of the more physically demanding tasks you’ve managed most of your adult life, like taking care of the lawn, or scrubbing the house and windows. Contact a local landscaper, or, better yet, a grandchild, to manage this work for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with these tasks—time spent helping their elders is a valuable investment in their character as humans.

Find Modifications for Your Favorite Hobbies

Sometimes our favorite activities slip away from us because we are no longer physically or mentally able to tackle them, but just because you need to modify an activity doesn’t mean that it is no longer of value to you. For example, many older adults who used to love tennis are picking up pickleball, and there are even new courts at Cahn Grove Park in Ashland! 

Browse all of the different courts and activities available in the City of Ashland Parks, and don’t forget about our 18 excellent Ashland County Parks you can explore. Getting out in nature is a great way to boost your mental and physical health, and staying active in general will help you continue to feel vibrant and alive, even if your favorite hobbies have changed.

Seek Support from Available Ashland Resources

When you find yourself struggling, don’t wait until a crisis happens to connect with help. There are ample resources available in Ashland County to support your physical and mental health needs. The Mental Health and Recovery Board can help you find support. The Ashland Council on Aging can point you in the right direction for help. And many other social service organizations in our community exist to make sure that your needs are adequately met.

3. Retire into New Purpose and Meaning

So many older adults anticipate the days when they can set aside their regular work life and enter into a new phase. Before you say goodbye to your boss, though, you need to figure out what you plan to say hello to after you retire.

Retirement might mean more time to relax, but once you’ve caught up on your sleep and other small projects around the house, what will you have to fill your time? Spend some time outlining the things that give you the most pleasure and sense of fulfillment. Perhaps it’s traveling, spending time with grandchildren, or gardening. Maybe you’ve always wanted to be able to volunteer more at church or in the community. 

Identify what the future after retirement looks like so that you can enter into retirement eager and ready for the next adventure.

4. …Or Don’t Retire at All

Because people are living longer and healthier lives, some folks have said, forget it, I’m never retiring! 

No one says you have to pull the plug on your professional life at 65. If you find a sense of joy and fulfillment through work, perhaps retirement isn’t for you! 

The Wall Street Journal recently interviewed many different older adults who have made the decision not to retire. Their philosophies range from maintaining a sense of purpose to keeping busy and beyond. Reading their stories may help you envision a different kind of older adulthood than you thought possible.

5. Stay Connected to Your Community

One of the greatest dangers to older adults is becoming isolated from community. People need each other to support their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual lives.

The Ashland YMCA, The Salvation Army Kroc Center, Ashland Council on Aging, and other organizations in Ashland can help you stay connected to other members of the community. If you don’t already have a church or faith community, consider seeking out a church family to connect with. If you are a military veteran, connect with the local Am Vets or VFWs. If you want to know how you can help serve the rest of the community, join the Rotary Club or Lions Club. 

Find healthy outlets in which you can build relationships with others in the Ashland area.

6. Plan for the Next Next Stage of Life

We’ve all heard (and maybe even experienced) the horror stories of loved ones who left behind a legacy of poor financial management, no advance directives or care plan for end-of-life, and no guidance for how they wanted to be remembered. 

And we’ve all thought to ourselves, “We won’t do that to our children.”

Well, now’s the time to start planning for the next next stage of your life. End-of-life care, age-in-place care, advance directives, and last will and testaments aren’t exactly fun table talk, but what many people find when they enter into this kind of planning is that it is actually quite empowering. You get to decide how you want to spend your last days. Your last gift to your children is a well-organized plan for how to handle your estate.

With this roadmap in place, you can have peace of mind that when your time does come, your loved ones can grieve without the burdens of managing messy books and complicated relationships.

7. “Keep Death Daily Before Your Eyes”

While we’re at it, let’s talk about death some more.

One of the temptations of growing older is to enter old age kicking and screaming. But none of us can stop the sands of time. 

Instead of denying that your life will have an end date, take a word of advice from fifth century monk Saint Benedict, and “keep death daily before your eyes.”

Memento mori,” or remember death, seems perhaps like a morbid and unhealthy fixation on your eventual demise, but in truth, according to Tracy Rittmueller, recognizing and accepting our own mortality changes the way we think and live. It reminds us that life is fragile. And, perhaps oddly enough, it heightens our experience of joy.

Tracy writes in her article “3 things nuns, monks, and poets know about why you should ‘keep death daily before your eyes,” “When we know death and the possibility of loss, the magnitude of our joy increases.” 

What happens when we remember death?

“We try to live the majority of our days as if they were our last, enabling us, when we come to the moment of our deaths, to know that we have lived a good life—a life surrendered to love,” writes Tracy Rittmueller.

We all want to live a good life, even to the end. The best way to ensure that happens is to live today, fully.

The Mental Health and Recovery Board of Ashland County strives to support the mental health of all members of our community. Explore our website to learn about how we operate, our partner agencies, and more resources that are available for all ages and stages of life.


Dr. Joanna Moncrieff will join the 2023 RSVP Conference to present a talk on “Challenging misperceptions about psychiatric drugs and appraising their role in recovery.”

As more and more drugs are prescribed to treat mental health conditions, it is imperative that health professionals take a close look at the efficacy of these prescriptions. Practitioners assume that these drugs target an underlying brain abnormality, such as a chemical imbalance or abnormality of neurogenesis. Dr. Moncrieff will present evidence for this idea during her talk and explore an alternative explanation that suggests that psychiatric drugs cause alterations in thinking, emotions, and behavior in anyone who takes them, regardless of whether or not they have a mental disorder diagnosis.

Dr. Moncrieff will also explore the mental and behavioral changes produced by different types of drugs and whether these have helpful or harmful effects in different situations. There are social and political drivers that have influenced our understanding of drug action. The more we understand the scientific evidence of disease-centered and drug-centered models of drug action, the better equipped we will be to evaluate the use of psychiatric drugs to treat individuals with mental health conditions.

Dr. Joanna Moncrieff studied medicine at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, qualifying in 1989. She trained in psychiatry in London and the southeast during the 1990s. During her undergraduate years, she conducted research on parents’ fears about substance misuse, and during the course of her psychiatry training, she worked on a trial investigating the use of the drug naltrexone in people with alcohol problems. Dr. Moncrieff also investigated the prevalence of previous sexual abuse among people attending alcohol treatment services.

Dr. Moncrieff took up her current post in 2001. For 10 years, she was a consultant for a psychiatric rehabilitation inpatient unit, helping people with severe and long-lasting mental health problems. For the last three years, she has been based in various community mental health services in Northeast London. Dr. Moncrieff teaches and conducts research at University College London.

Dr. Moncrieff is one of the founding members and the co-chairperson of the Critical Psychiatry Network. The Critical Psychiatry Network consists of a group of psychiatrists from around the world who are skeptical of the idea that mental disorders are simply brain diseases and of the dominance of the pharmaceutical industry.

We look forward to Dr. Moncrieff’s research and presentation. Those interested in attending the MHRB of Ashland County’s annual RSVP Conference on March 29, 2023, can register here.


This spring, the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Ashland County welcomes Rob Wipond as our 2023 RSVP Conference featured speaker.  Wipond will present his talk, “911 and 988: Both Help and Horror on Everyone’s Speed Dial.”

Asylums are supposed to be a thing of the past, but unfortunately, many of the same practices that happened in these institutions live on across the United States. In fact, according to Wipond, “more law-abiding Americans today are being involuntarily committed and forcibly treated ‘for their own good’ than at any time in history.”

Wipond’s presentation will address the various factors that influence involuntary psychiatric interventions today. His findings challenge some of the common beliefs about institutionalization, demonstrating that there are actually far more inpatient beds and people being subjected to coercion than ever before. Mass-scale psychiatric detention fraud for profit is on the rise, and flexible mental health laws and tranquilizing drugs are increasingly being used to help manage schools, workplaces, guardianships, and other institutions, frequently for explicitly politicized purposes. Wipond will challenge our audience to evaluate our psychiatric treatment practices, advocating for improved collection of data alongside greater honesty and transparency.

Wipond is a freelance journalist and author of the book, Your Consent Is Not Required: The Rise in Psychiatric Detentions, Forced Treatment, and Abusive Guardianships, published this winter by BenBella Press. His book is the first comprehensive, journalistic exploration of people’s experiences of civil commitment in the United States and Canada in decades. As a journalist, Wipond writes frequently on the interfaces between psychiatry, civil rights, policing, surveillance and privacy, and social change. His articles have been nominated for 17 magazine and journalism awards for writing in medicine, science and technology, business, and law. He has taught journalism and creative nonfiction at the University of Victoria and Royal Roads University, and also works and volunteers with nonprofit groups that do neighborhood community building.

Rob Wipond will speak at the MHRB of Ashland County’s annual RSVP Conference on March 29, 2023. Mark your calendars and come prepared to be awakened to behavioral health treatment challenges when we don’t prioritize the role of the person receiving care.


Grief During the Holidays

For some, the holiday season is the best time of the year, with lots of gatherings, festive music, sparkly lights, joyful memories, and good cheer. But for those who have lost a loved one, the holiday months can feel especially overwhelming and difficult.

Bereavement occurs when someone close to us has died, a state of being deprived of something that is precious to us. The word comes from Old English bereafian, meaning to deprive, to seize violently, to plunder, to rob. Grief is our reaction and the feelings that we experience in response to losing someone whom we deeply care about. As painful and debilitating as it can feel, grief is a normal and healthy response to loss. Grief is hard during any season, but for many, grief is felt more intensely during the holidays.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve during the holidays, but here are some tips to help you cope:

Acknowledge your grief. It’s ok to feel sad during the holidays. You don’t have to bottle up your feelings and pretend you don’t feel the way that you do. Crying is healthy. Whether you cry when you’re by yourself or with others, let it happen.

Tolerate your limits. Grief can leave you feeling drained and fatigued. Listen to your body, and don’t expect yourself to be at your peak during the holiday season. Take breaks when you need them. Rest.

Talk about your loved one. Many people find comfort in keeping the memory of their loved one alive. Share stories about your lost loved one with the people. Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after one dies. Instead of blocking those memories, try sharing them with your family and friends.

Keep their spirit alive. Decorate in their favorite colors. Play their favorite holiday songs. Make their favorite dishes. Say a prayer for them. Make memorial ornaments. Light a candle in their memory. Find whatever way suits you best to include your loved one in your holiday traditions going forward.

Take things one day at a time. Don’t try to rush the process. Some days will be better than others and that’s ok. Acknowledge how you feel and lean on your support system.

Take care of yourself. When people grieve, they sometimes start to unintentionally neglect their physical and emotional needs. Eat regular, healthy meals, get rest, and find ways to manage your stress.

Do what feels right for you. The holiday might look different when you’re grieving and that’s ok. Maybe you need some time to yourself, or maybe it’s comforting to be around others. Do what feels right to YOU. How you feel about the holidays themselves might change from day to day. It’s ok to cancel plans, change traditions, or even leave a gathering early if it feels overwhelming.

How to Support Someone Who is Struggling with a Loss

Acknowledge their loss. It’s ok to talk about what has happened. Avoid phrases like “at least” or “it was for the best.”

Listen. Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone who is grieving is just listen. Let them talk about their loved one and their grief. Avoid giving advice or telling them how they should feel.

Offer practical help. Ask if there’s anything you can do to help. Even things like running errands, cooking a meal, or just sitting with them can be helpful. The holidays can be particularly busy and overwhelming. Maybe you could help them make a Christmas list, pick up some things from the busy store, so they don’t have to, or offer to watch their kids for a couple of hours so they can take a break.

Let them know you care. Sometimes it is most helpful just to let them know that you care and that you’re here for them in whatever way they need you to be.

If you or someone you know has lost a loved one and are experiencing grief this holiday season, we hope you will find something in this post to lift even a tiny bit of the burden you carry.

Please know that you are never alone. If you need help, reach out to one of the many caring and compassionate professionals in Ashland County.

This holiday season, let’s take good care of one another.


If you or someone you know is having a hard time and experiencing suicidal thoughts, please do not hesitate to call the local 24/7 hotline at 419/289-6111 or text 4HOPE to 741741 for support.

You can reach out to us for more information at the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Ashland County at 419/281-3139 or find resources at


The Significance of Gratitude

“Let our lives be full of thanks and giving.” -Author Unknown

Each year in November, many of us gather with loved ones and reflect on the blessings in our lives to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. This is the perfect time of the year to talk about the meaning and importance of gratitude, but we hope you will consider using the information in this blog to find new ways to instill gratitude in your daily life, beyond the holiday season.

The word gratitude stems from the Latin word ‘gratia’- which also means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. The Webster’s Dictionary definition of gratitude is “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” A large body of positive psychology research has indicated that people who are more grateful have higher levels of subjective well-being; they’re happier, less depressed, less stressed, and more satisfied with their lives and social relationships. Grateful people also report greater personal growth, purpose in life, self-acceptance, and more positive ways of coping with the difficult things that happen in their lives.

Other Mental Health Benefits of Gratitude:

Boosts self-confidence
Improves patience
Improves resiliency
Greater level of optimism
Enhances vitality
Improves mood and increases positive emotions
Can help manage grief
Contributes to Happiness
Strengthens relationships with partners, friends, and loved ones
Enhances productivity and improves satisfaction at work
Gratitude is also related to better physical health; there is a strong relationship between gratitude and cardiovascular health, lower stress and inflammation, fewer trips to the doctor, increased sexual satisfaction, and better sleep quality.

Here are some things you can do to build gratitude into your daily routine:

Take a few minutes each day to reflect on the things in your life that you are grateful for
Slow down and observe the beauty and goodness of something you encounter in your daily life
If you see a stranger struggling, offer a hand. Random acts of kindness are an opportunity to “pay it forward” to acknowledge your own blessings that can be used to help others. Offering kindness is also a great way to express your appreciation for others- and it is likely to elicit their feelings of gratitude toward you!
Express your gratitude verbally. Words are the most direct and sometimes the most powerful way to express gratitude to the people in our lives
Write a gratitude letter or note. You can write down the things you appreciate about a friend or loved one in a letter or thank you card. It takes very little time but can be a powerful, sincere expression of gratitude

Ask how they’re doing and really listen to their response. The simple act of listening to your friend or loved one is a great way to show them how much you value them. Put down your phone, offer your full attention and a bit of your time, and let them talk freely to you
Pay attention to the small things in your life that bring you joy and peace. If you enjoy writing, a journal can be a great way to reflect on gratitude consistently
Spend time in meditation or prayer focused on giving thanks.

Gratitude Can Be Hard

Gratitude has many emotional and physical benefits, but that doesn’t mean that it comes without challenges or that it’s easy to shift your thinking in this way. Gratitude is about getting into the habit of reflecting on the good in our lives while also acknowledging that positives and negatives are a fact of life. Most of us don’t experience days that are either ALL good or ALL bad. Being grateful does not require that you ignore or minimize your personal struggles. On our most stressful or difficult days, shifting toward a gratitude mindset can help us step back and see that there is good to be found, even if some days we have to try a little harder to see it.


As the days shorten and the leaves of our beautiful region fall to the ground, it seems like our natural instinct is to hunker down and prepare to hibernate all winter long. Despite how lovely a season autumn can be, for some, the loss of light and the change of the seasons can provoke sadness, anxiety, and distress.

Every new season in life is an opportunity to pick up some new practices and develop new habits that can help you stay physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. Here are several ways to nurture your well-being as the temperatures fall.

Autumn Cleaning for a Healthy Home Hibernation
Spring was a great time to clean and air out the house and get rid of all the stuff that accumulated over last winter, but don’t overlook the same opportunity this fall! Now is the time to tuck away the summer’s toys, swap out the shorts and tanks for pants and sweaters (it’s sweater weather!), winterize the yard, and give your home a good deep clean. Cleaned and organized spaces do more than tidy up your living space, they also lighten your mood and help boost your productivity.

Now is also a great time to rearrange your furniture or invest in some new and different decorations, which can make a big difference about how you feel in your home. Take yourself downtown to visit some of Ashland’s great shops, like Fig & Oak, LK Home Decor, and Farm & Home Hardware for a few new cute little somethings.

Make Plans to Stay Active
It’s so easy to downshift into a lower gear during the winter months, but if you’ve already established some habits and routines in autumn, you will be far more likely to carry those forward. Join a local gym, like the Ashland Warehouse, Snap Fitness, or A-Town Family Fitness, to find fellow fitness fiends like yourself. Organizations like the Ashland YMCA, Kroc Center, and Rise Studios provide a diverse range of wellness programming that can hold you accountable and will meet you where you’re at.

If you aren’t interested in going somewhere indoors to keep your blood pumping, there are lots of exercise routines and Yoga instructors available on YouTube, or simply bundle up and step outside! This is a beautiful time of year to hike our local parks or walk around your neighborhood and admire everyone’s Halloween decorations (and eventually Christmas lights).

Get Your Vitamins and Minerals
With colder temps, it’s far less likely you’ll be stepping outside and getting your daily dose of Vitamin D. The sun provides us with this essential vitamin most of the time, but if we’re not outdoors (or it’s especially overcast), we miss out. A Vitamin D supplement can boost your immune system and improve your mood.

Now is also a great time to try out new recipes using seasonal ingredients that are fresh, tasty, and match the mood of autumn. Fall fruits and vegetables aren’t just satisfying to eat, they contain vitamins and minerals that improve our mental health. Stop by the local farmer’s markets or swing out to Honey Haven Farm for the freshest and most local produce!

Spices that we associate with fall are also highly beneficial to your mental health. Turmeric can reduce symptoms of depression, cinnamon helps regulate your blood sugar, and nutmeg can have relaxing effects on the body.

Help Your Immune System Prepare for Winter
So many of us gather indoors during the winter, and that means more opportunities for viruses and bacteria to circulate. When you come down with a cold or flu, it not only knocks your physical health out for a while, it also puts a major damper on your mental and emotional health. Get your flu shot, schedule a visit with your doctor for an annual wellness appointment, drink plenty of water, wash your hands, get enough sleep, and eat healthy foods…when combined, all of these actions can help you boost your immune system and stay well.

Plan for the Delights of Winter Nights
No matter how much you love being out in the cold, there’s nothing like coming back inside. If winter is a hard season for you, make plans now to keep the winter doldrums at bay. Create a plan to keep busy that still allows you to rest in the quiet of the season. Plan a weekly dinner night with friends or family. Schedule game nights or electronic-free Saturdays to have some quality time with your family. Choose one night a week to watch your favorite shows or movies with loved ones, pop popcorn, and sip on a hot beverage. Make a book list to read through the winter, and share it with a friend so you can discuss what you’ve read.

Be Kind to Your Body
Remember that life is full of seasons and cycles, and autumn is naturally a time when we all wind down, put on extra weight, develop colds, and feel a little low. As Alyse Ruriani says in her article on autumn wellness tips, “Listen to your body and give it what it needs, and don’t beat yourself up!” If autumn and winter aren’t your favorites, don’t worry. Spring will be on its way soon enough.

Sometimes, even when we’ve done everything we can to stay healthy and feel good, we still can’t free ourselves from anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns. That’s okay! If you could use a little extra help getting through this season, our website offers lots of resources for you to find a therapist or counselor who can help, or call the 2-1-1 helpline in Ashland to ask for help.


You’re Not Alone: Preventing Suicide in Ashland County

If you or a loved one is thinking about suicide, we want you to know that you are not alone; help is available. September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The goal of this blog is to spark local conversations about suicide to increase awareness of the topic, provide information about warning signs and resources for those that may need support, and offer help and hope to those who may be struggling.

Suicide Statistics

The statistics are startling. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 14th leading cause of death overall, the 3rd leading cause of death for those ages 10-24. The suicide rate among men is four times higher than for women. Each year, about 1,600 people die by suicide in Ohio. In 2021, seven people died by suicide in Ashland County, Ohio. The effects of suicide are far-reaching; in a 2019 study, researchers found that up to 135 people are affected to some degree by every person who dies by suicide.

You’re Not Alone

As humans, we all experience ups and downs in life. Going through hard times is inevitable and having suicidal thoughts can be a common response to overwhelming life stress. Suicidal thoughts are often fleeting but can last longer for some people. Because of the stigma still associated with suicide, some folks may find it difficult to talk openly about what they are experiencing. We want you to know that there are many caring people here in Ashland County that you can talk with if you or a loved one needs support.

You are valuable, your life matters, and there is help if you, a friend, or a family member needs it.

Signs that Someone Might be Considering Suicide:

Frequently thinking or talking about death.
Thinking or saying, “I’m better off dead,” or others “would be better off without me.”
Thinking or saying that death is preferable to living.
Avoiding family/friends.
Losing interest in activities that one once found to be enjoyable.
Personal or family history of suicidal thoughts/attempts.
Sleeping too much to escape reality.
Substance use as an attempt to cope with life’s challenges.
Forming a suicide plan.
Obtaining lethal means to carry out a plan.

Tips for Helping:

If you notice any of these signs in someone you know, you can offer support by simply talking with them about what they are experiencing. You can ask a question like “are you thinking about suicide,” or “are you thinking about hurting yourself,” to safely open the conversation to the topic. It is important to truly listen to what the person has to say, with your full attention. This shows that you genuinely care and can help instill hope. Refrain from making judgmental statements, it is important to let people speak without being criticized or shamed for how they are feeling. Remind this person that things can and will get better- sometimes we lose sight of that when times are hard.

If you or someone you know is having a hard time and experiencing suicidal thoughts, please do not hesitate to call the local 24/7 hotline at 419/289-6111 or text 4HOPE to 741741 for support.

If you are interested in getting people at your organization trained in QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) suicide prevention training at no cost, please contact the Mental Health & Recovery Board at 419/281-3139.

If you are interested in learning more about what Ashland County is doing to prevent suicide, please download and review the Ashland County Suicide Prevention Plan here.


Exciting Times for the Behavioral Healthcare Workforce in Ashland County

Like most industries, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the recruitment and retention of behavioral healthcare workers. Positions remain open for longer, more people are choosing to retire or leave their industries altogether, and fewer new workers are joining the workforce each year.

Though these changes have presented some obvious challenges, the current workforce situation is an exciting opportunity for growth and innovation within the current behavioral healthcare system.

For many of us, work is a big part of who we are. When you meet someone new, one of the first things they ask about is what you do for work– and for a good reason, it would seem. People spend a significant amount of time at work. After factoring out the amount of time one spends sleeping, work takes up about half of an average person’s life.

At a basic level, work helps to ensure our survival. We earn money that can be used to buy things like food, shelter, necessities, goods, services, and transportation. Meaningful social connections at work can also positively impact one’s mental health, improve quality of life, increase fulfillment, and even extend one’s lifespan.

At its best, work can also provide a sense of purpose in one’s life. A recent study on purposeful work showed that individuals who found a sense of purpose in their work were ten times more likely to experience overall well-being.

Reasons to Work in Behavioral Healthcare in Ashland County

The Ashland County Mental Health and Recovery Board is proud to partner with three local provider agencies- Appleseed, ACCADA, and Catholic Charities. They offer an array of quality behavioral health services to the residents of the Ashland community. The many dedicated and genuinely caring behavioral healthcare professionals in Ashland make this community someplace truly special to live… and to work.

The “Three Legs of the Stool Philosophy” holds steady at the heart of all the services funded by the Ashland County MHRB. This framework emphasizes trauma-informed, resilience/recovery-oriented care and medication optimization. The Ashland MHRB believes that all individuals and families should have access to safe and trusting relationships, activities that give one’s life a sense of meaning and purpose, health and wellness, stress-reducing practices, and constructive communication skills.

More reasons to consider a career in behavioral healthcare in Ashland:

Working in behavioral health provides a valuable opportunity to serve others, which can be mutually beneficial for both the worker and the individual receiving help. Helping others also develops a sense of purpose and meaning in life.

Ashland is a rural community. Those working in behavioral health within Ashland can work closely with community members and other professionals, building meaningful and long-lasting relationships.

People in behavioral health are helpers by nature. They often make wonderful colleagues and supervisors because of the genuine support they provide to their coworkers. They are good people. If you’re looking for an excellent team to be a part of, Ashland County has some of the best around!

Because of the workforce changes that have recently occurred, there are many exciting opportunities for long-term career growth within the system.
Our agencies are managed by leaders who have years of experience serving. These leaders are a wealth of knowledge and information. They are devoted to investing time and energy in their employees’ professional development and the quality of services provided to the community.

You will never run out of things to learn. In behavioral healthcare, there is a strong focus on lifetime learning. It is important to continually have a spirit of learning and a desire to engage in your own personal and professional development when working with people.

Our partner agencies truly care about the well-being of their employees, and their employee benefits are reflective of this.

This is an exciting time in behavioral healthcare due to advances in offering telehealth services. Providers often enjoy more flexibility in their roles as a result.
If you are a person who shares our core values and you want to engage in a meaningful and rewarding helping career here in Ashland, we would encourage you to consider contacting one of our three community partners about job opportunities that may be available.


Contact Our Community Partners

Appleseed Community Mental Health Center






Catholic Charities Diocese of Cleveland


For more mental health resources, visit the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Ashland County.


Drug overdoses continue to plague and traumatize communities throughout Ohio. According to the CDC, Ohio has the fourth highest death rate due to drug overdose, with 47.3 deaths by overdose per 100,000 population. (For context, the provisional death rate data in Ohio due to COVID-19 is 82 per 100,000, and the death rate by firearm injury is 15.2 per 100,000.)

In 2020 alone, there were 5,204 drug overdose deaths in Ohio, the third highest number per state in the country.

This is a grievous and tragic challenge, but our community has resources available to reduce these figures, reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, and save lives.

What Is Narcan?
Narcan is the brand name for the medicine Naloxone. It is used to rapidly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, which can prevent the loss of life.

Why Are We Distributing Narcan in Our Community?
Whether a person becomes addicted to pain medication after a surgery or experiments with a drug they think they’ll be able to use recreationally, drug addiction can take hold and destroy lives with just one use. Many of today’s drugs available on the street are laced with fentanyl, a highly potent and deadly drug that can cause an overdose with just one use…or even with light exposure. Take it from two local deputies who both began to overdose when exposed to fentanyl. Without Narcan, the two deputies might not be here today.

The bottom line is Narcan saves lives, and we want to save lives in our community.

Where Can You Get Narcan in Ashland?
If you feel it could benefit you or someone you love in the event of an emergency, Narcan is available for free from ACCADA, Appleseed Community Mental Health Center, the Ashland County Health Department, and local pharmacies.

How Do You Give Someone Narcan?
Naloxone (Narcan) can be given as a nasal spray or it can be injected into the muscle, under the skin, or into the veins. Watch this video for step-by-step instructions:


You can save lives in Ashland County. If you feel Narcan would benefit you, please reach out to one of the organizations listed above.


The Mental Health and Recovery Board of Ashland County continues to invest resources to equip the region’s mental health providers with access and training to ensure the services available to residents are trauma-informed and trauma-competent. A particular area of focus, together with Judge Karen DeSanto-Kellogg, is to bring the principles of trauma-informed care into the Juvenile Court, Juvenile Probation, and those systems working closely with the court. Since Judge DeSanto-Kellogg’s election, she has taken steps to integrate trauma-informed principles into how the court and those interacting with the court operate.

What Does It Mean to Be Trauma-Informed?
A court system that is trauma-informed follows these six core principles:

Safety: Throughout the organization, patients and staff feel physically and psychologically safe

Trustworthiness and Transparency: Decisions are made with transparency and with the goal of building and maintaining trust

Peer Support: Individuals with shared experiences are integrated into the organization and viewed as integral to service delivery

Collaboration: Power differences—between staff and clients and among organizational staff—are leveled to support shared decision-making

Empowerment: Patient and staff strengths are recognized, built on, and validated—this includes a belief in resilience and the ability to heal from trauma

Humility and Responsiveness: Biases and stereotypes (e.g., based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, geography) and historical trauma are recognized and addressed

How Ashland’s Juvenile Court System Is Becoming Trauma-Informed
To make a more trauma-informed court requires training, conversations, and ongoing education for counselors, judges, social workers, and others who come into contact with juveniles in the court system. Partnering with Sherry Bouquet and Fostering Family Ministries, Judge DeSanto-Kellogg brought in the Honorable Carole W. Clark, Retired Judge of 321st State District Court of Texas, for a two-day training on “Challenges & Opportunities in a Trauma Competent Court System.”

Members of the Board and staff from all three of the Board’s contract partner agencies were present to learn first-hand what wisdom Judge Clark’s team had for our county. The Board also supported the training by offering continuing education to counselors and social workers who attended.

Trainings like these build upon past work throughout Ashland County to integrate trauma-informed care into the systems throughout our area. Five years ago, the Board offered community-wide training on adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, an important building block in developing a trauma-informed care system. Additionally, Sherry Bouquet and Fostering Family Ministries have been conducting Trust-Based Relational Intervention or TBRI training for several years. TBRI is a critical evidence-based approach that works with persons with trauma histories safely and effectively.

We’re pleased to partner with and support Judge DeSanto-Kellogg’s efforts to address the systemic changes necessary for the courts to become trauma-informed. As Ashland becomes increasingly trauma-informed, we become a more sensitive, compassionate, and caring community where families and the health of our community are both strengthened to the benefit of all.

Learn more about trauma-informed courts in Ashland County or browse our extensive list of resources on trauma-informed care to take the next step in your organization.


There’s nothing like more daylight and warmer temperatures to inspire a fresh outlook and a renewed focus on feeling good. Here are some great ways to take care of your physical, mental, and emotional health as the seasons change here in Ashland.

Aim for at least 5-10 minutes of fresh air daily.
Spending time outdoors is a great way to boost your mood and reduce stress, particularly once it warms up. All it takes is just a few minutes of fresh air to feel rejuvenated. Warm weather is proven to boost your mood and reduce stress. Sun exposure also raises your Vitamin D levels which increases your energy levels.

Insert the outdoors into your daily routine to build a good habit: schedule time after work, on your lunch break, once the kids come home from school, after dinner, or before you head to the office in the morning—wherever you can fit it in!

Find outdoor places that bring you peace. They can be found all around our community or in your own backyard. Take a stroll down Main Street and sit for a while at Foundation Park. Pack a lunch and sit on a picnic table at Brookside Park.

Or go for a greater adventure—the Ashland County Park District has 18 different parks you can incorporate into your wellness plan. Set a goal to visit each one with a friend or family members to experience the joy and benefits of being outdoors.

Increase your exercise regimen.
The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise. It can be hard to start up an exercise routine, so look for things that you know you’ll enjoy, like outdoor walks, gardening, bike riding, hiking, or swimming, and ask a friend to join you. The best accountability is a set date and time with a friend or family member who is counting on you to workout with them.

Exercise does more than just help your physical health, it also has been shown to improve mental health. Exercise releases endorphins, the feel-good hormones, which give you that natural high after physical exertion. Plus, outdoor exercise can be as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression and anxiety. One study shows that individuals who exercise outside tend to spend at least 30 minutes doing more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week than those who workout exclusively indoors.

Declutter your life—physically and mentally.
Spring cleaning is a chance to throw open the windows, wipe down surfaces, and get rid of all the stuff that has accumulated over the last six months. A cluttered physical environment is known to reflect our internal operations, so if you’ve been feeling anxious and depressed, it might help to do some decluttering. Simplify your surroundings for a less stressful home and office working environment.

Even if your external environment is neat and tidy, your mind might still feel cluttered. Many of us think we can multitask, but it turns out that our brains can’t actually do more than one thing at a time. Instead, we’re just flying from one activity to the next, or back and forth again, which can be absolutely exhausting. Multitasking can lead to a whole bunch of unfinished projects, and that heap of work means more stress and anxiety. Try to complete one project at a time. This will give you the boost of accomplishment you need to keep going through the rest of your projects.

Decluttering can feel overwhelming. Start small. Take decluttering projects one room or one space at a time, limiting the amount of time you commit to the task each day. While you are decluttering your physical space, don’t neglect your mental space. Carve out at least 15 minutes to sort through your thoughts and feelings. Meditate or pray, journal or read, or go on that short hike outdoors we talked about above to clear out the jumbled thoughts.

Get a good night’s sleep.
With all of the fresh air you’ve taken in throughout the day and your more rigorous exercise routine, you should sleep like a baby! Not enough sleep can contribute to poor mental health, especially if you consistently get less than 5 hours of sleep a night.

To get a better night’s sleep, create a bedtime routine that helps you power down, so to speak. Turn off screens, take a bath, or read a book to reduce the stimulants that can keep you awake, and create a soothing sleep environment in a cool, dark and quiet room. These measures can help you go to sleep and wake up refreshed the next morning.

Make a diet change.
The fuel you put into your body is just as important as the activities you do to use that energy and recharge at the end of the day. Your brain benefits from a healthy diet just as much as the rest of your body. We all know we’re supposed to eat a balanced diet, but the temptations of fast food and packaged meals can often spoil our best laid plans.

Dramatic dietary changes can seem overwhelming and aren’t always sustainable. Instead of trying the next fad diet, identify one way you can make a diet change this spring. You might try to eliminate soda, reduce your caffeine intake, drink a smoothie at breakfast, eat one salad a day, cut red meat, or add one vegetarian meal to your diet each week. Once you’ve incorporated one of these changes into your diet, try to add another. This gradual approach allows you to feel accomplished and intentional instead of overwhelmed and stressed (remember that thing about multitasking?).

Set screen time limits.
The amount of time we spend in front of screens can have a draining impact on our mental health. Find the settings for your phone and impose some limits for screen time. You might be surprised by how much extra time you can find in your day for more life-giving activities simply by imposing screen time limits.

Take time to care for yourself.
Make space to meet your personal needs. Loving yourself is a part of being able to love others well. If you feel exhausted, anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed, it’s tough to be able to give more out of that empty tank. Schedule time to do some of your favorite activities this spring. Read a book, sit outside, take a walk, watch a good movie, or find some other good way to waste time…spending time doing activities you love is time well spent.

Sometimes, all the self-care in the world is no match for the circumstances that are impacting your mental health. If you feel like your ability to cope isn’t holding up, there’s help and hope. Connect with one of the MHRB of Ashland County resources to take steps toward a healthier and happier life.


These days, many of us turn to social media for news, community information, updates from family and friends, entertainment, or even just a break from our daily routine. Social media is a technological tool—it isn’t good or bad in and of itself.

Like any tool, social media can have positive and negative outcomes. It’s positive when the photos of a loved one bring a smile to your face, you feel up-to-date and in touch with what’s happening in the world, and that string of videos from your favorite social media family makes you laugh. It can turn negative when the photos from a friend showcasing an event you weren’t invited to make you feel left out and alone, or the onslaught of news leaves you feeling sad and helpless, or the string of videos of other people’s lives makes you feel envious and discouraged.

These emotions can be stirred up in any of us, whether you’re just entering your teen years or you’re well into retirement, brand new to social media or a veteran user of various platforms.

According to the Loma Linda University Institute for Health Policy and Leadership, “There is a growing body of literature showing a correlation between social media use and depression, anxiety, eating disorders, sleeping disorders, and/or suicidal tendencies.” While social media has done an important job of raising awareness of and removing the stigma around mental health, it’s important for social media users to be aware of how their engagement with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and other platforms is affecting their mental health.

Warning Signs Social Media Is Adversely Affecting Your Mental Health
There are several indicators that your social media usage may be negatively influencing your mental health. If you find yourself spending more time online than with your “offline” friends, if you are unfairly comparing yourself with others’ lives, if you experience feelings of “FOMO” (fear of missing out) and find yourself frequently checking social media to see what other people are doing (even while you yourself are out doing things), social media is likely negatively affecting your mental health.

Whenever you have a spare moment of solitude, do you find yourself immediately going to social media? Without quiet moments in our lives, we miss out on moments of self-awareness or self-reflection, which are essential for our growth as people.

If social media has become a distraction from your everyday activities, like work and school, to the point where you can’t pull yourself away to focus on the tasks at hand or get enough sleep at night, it’s probably time to re-evaluate your social media consumption.

If social media leaves you feeling more anxious, depressed, and lonely after you’ve used it, this is a clear indication that it’s time to pull the plug on your social media for a while.

Steps to Modify Your Social Media Usage for Improved Mental Health
For some people, cutting ties entirely from social media might be the best option, but many folks can improve their mental health by taking simple steps to change their relationship with the various social media platforms.

Reduce Usage
According to the same article cited above, “A 2018 University of Pennsylvania study found that reducing social media use to 30 minutes a day resulted in a significant reduction in levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness, sleep problems, and FOMO.”

That might seem like a drastic cut to some of us, but simply being more mindful of how we’re using social media can drastically impact our relationship to it. This means being more mindful of when you are using social media and setting boundaries that provide more time and space away from your smartphone. Consider leaving your phone in another room to charge at bedtime, setting up screen time limits, disabling social media push notifications, limit the frequency of your social media checks, or remove social media apps from your phone. Any of these steps can help you control the amount of time you spend on social media.

Know Why You Use Social Media
When you know the intention behind your own use of social media as well as other people’s use of social media, it can “right size” your relationship with the platforms. Define for yourself what you expect out of social media—do you go to social media to find specific information, or are you simply going to social media out of boredom? Knowing your motivation can help you discern whether you’ve crossed over into unhealthy social media interaction.

Invest in Offline Relationships
Social media can be a fun way to connect with people we don’t get to see every day, but when we allow those relationships to become substitutes for “real-life” connections, our mental health suffers. Social interactions with humans in the real world keeps us happy and healthy in many different ways. Make time each week for lunch dates, coffee, or get-togethers with friends and family, where the emphasis is on spending time with each other without the necessity of phones. Reach out to old friends or make new ones by joining a local club. Engage with the people around you at work, at the grocery store, on the street, etc. Even these small connections can lift your mood and help you feel more connected to the rest of the human race.

Avoid Using Social Media to Self-Diagnose
With so many people helpfully promoting and advocating for mental health, it can also be tempting to use that information to “self-diagnose” your own mental health. This might not be the best way to analyze how you are feeling—you might be able to name what you might be dealing with, but often this self-diagnosis misses helping you to cope with the negative emotions you’re experiencing. If you feel like you might be suffering from mental health challenges, it’s important to talk to a counselor or qualified mental health professional. These individuals are trained to help you not only name what you might be experiencing but find appropriate tools and resources for you to use to heal and recover from underlying causes.

The Mental Health and Recovery Board of Ashland County has a network of these mental health professionals available to help you through whatever challenges you’re experiencing. Visit our website for more information.


The winter doldrums can bring any of us down, especially as winter drags its slushy feet into the months we expect to be like spring. With the decreased amount of sunlight and chilly weather, we tend to hunker down in the house for long stretches of time. A cup of hot tea and a warm blanket is great comfort, but after a while, being cooped up inside can wear on your emotional, physical, and mental well being. Here are some tips for how to make sure your whole body stays healthy and fit during these long winter days.

Eat a Healthy Diet
Your immune system has a lot it’s up against during the months we spend indoors. Providing your body with the right amount of healthy nutrients keeps your whole system in tip-top shape. Choose a diet filled with fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, and try to avoid eating lots of sweets and processed foods.

Foods like mushrooms, garlic, citrus fruits, herbs and spices, yogurt, apples, bananas, onion, and chicken soup all support your immune system.

Stay Active
When it’s cold out, the idea of bundling up and going for a walk might not sound that appealing, but exercise is an important part of your ongoing wellness. Even a short, brisk walk can go a long way toward keeping you fit.

The Salvation Army Kroc Center in Ashland has an indoor track that is open to the public for free, or even take a stroll around the local Home Depot or Walmart to get your steps in. Thirty minutes of physical activity a day can help you maintain or lose weight, improve your mental health, reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and improve your quality of sleep, according to the National Institute of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Get Outside
Okay, it’s cold, but winter is also one of Ohio’s most beautiful seasons. Explore the paved paths of Freer Field or Byers Woods, or strap on your mud boots and tromp around Sandusky Woods and other serene parks in Ashland County. Just being out in nature is proven to improve our mental and physical well being.

Reduce the Spread of Germs
With cold, flu, Covid, and other viruses more rampant during our winter, indoor months, good hygiene, hand washing, keeping your distance from others who are sick, sanitizing frequently touched surfaces, and avoiding touching your face can reduce your chances of getting sick and spreading illness in the community.

Stay Hydrated
Water is our body’s purification system. It flushes our system of waste and toxins through urination, perspiration, and bowel movements. It helps us maintain the right body temperature. It lubricates joints and protects sensitive tissues. But in the winter, because we’re not as active, we might not notice being thirsty or dehydrated as easily, and older adults don’t sense thirst as well as younger people, which also can cause dehydration to go unnoticed.

The amount of water adults need varies from person to person, but the best way to ensure you stay hydrated throughout the day is to drink a glass of water with every meal, when you take medication, and when you are socializing.

The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommend about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day for men and about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women, keeping in mind that about 20% of our fluid intake comes from food. The old recommendation to drink 8 glasses of water a day is a reasonable goal.

Make or Listen to Music
Studies have shown that listening to music over a long period of time has a cumulative effect on our mental health, reducing levels of depression. Another study says that listening to “feel good” music for just five minutes can make you feel happier, more satisfied with life, and more joyful.

The effects are even greater when you are actively making music. Singing, dancing, and drumming all release endorphins and can alter your mood. So, turn on your favorite tune, sing along, and get your moves on!

Be Creative
Sign up for a painting or ceramics class at the Tin Can Chandelier. Pull out a sketch pad and pencil. Write a poem. Journal. Bake. Knit. Whittle a stick. Creativity is another natural mood booster that can reduce stress, lower anxiety and depression, and improve overall satisfaction in your life.

Read a Good Book (or Series of Books)
The days are long, especially these cold, winter days, and while it might be tempting to sit for hours binge watching your favorite Netflix series, it might not be the best choice for your mental well being. Reading, on the other hand, has been proven to sharpen your cognitive abilities, reduce stress, and lower levels of anxiety and depression. Find a good series or pair up with a neighbor to share a good story, and then get together to talk about it (now you’re socializing and reading, two things that are good for your mental health).

Connect, Laugh, and Be Grateful
Make time for friends. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just invite someone over for a cup of coffee or tea, or meet them out at Downtown Perk, Goldberry Roasting Company, Vines Bakery, or one of our amazing Ashland restaurants. Socializing is good for your mental health.

And laughter, especially laughter with a loved one or friend, is indeed good medicine. But so is gratitude. Incorporate a habit of gratitude into your life, and you’ll discover that gratitude is a natural fuel for joy, and joy a natural fuel for more gratitude. Instead of a downward spiral of anxiety and sadness, it’s an upward spiral of joy and gratitude.

And Get Enough Sleep
Sleep needs vary from person to person and from each stage of life, but most adults need around 7-8 hours of sleep a night in order to function well. Go to bed and wake up around the same time each day, even on the weekends, to keep your body in rhythm and fully rested.

You can make the most of this cold weather season and keep healthy at the same time. For more mental health resources, visit the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Ashland County.


Journalist and author Sam Quinones documented the growing drug problem in America in articles, interviews, and in his most recent books of narrative nonfiction, The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth (2021) and Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, which was selected as one of’s Best Books of 2015 and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. The Mental Health and Recovery Board of Ashland County is thrilled to welcome Quinones to Ashland as the keynote speaker for our RSVP Conference.

Quinones has a history of immersing himself into the setting of those whose lives he covers to fully understand what their experiences are like. He lived in Mexico for 10 years as a freelance writer, covering stories on the country’s politics, immigration, gang members, and taco vendors. While in Mexico, he interacted with drag queens and recovering drug addicts, street gangs and congressmen, polygamous Mormons and promoters of the Tijuana opera scene.

Following his stint in Mexico, Quinones worked from 2004-2014 as a reporter for the L.A. Times covering immigration, drug trafficking, neighborhood stories, and gangs. Out of this season came his award-winning book, Dreamland.

Dreamland garnered much recognition when it was released. The book catalogs the explosive impact of addiction on communities across the country. Combining his abilities as a storyteller with his fact-gathering expertise as a reporter, Quinones deftly narrates the catastrophic consequences of prescribing the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin in the 90s and the massive influx of black tar heroin throughout the nation, and how these two collided to ravage towns across the U.S. to this day.

Quinones’ follow-up book, The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth, which was published just last fall, documents the next stages of the opioid epidemic. How has the situation evolved, and what is being done in communities hit by addiction, mental illness, and homelessness? The book investigates how drug use has been transformed in the last few years, particularly how the synthetic drug fentanyl is infiltrating communities and destroying lives.

To write The Least of Us, Quinones hit the road again, to investigate Mexican drug traffickers and the towns across the United States that are rallying with fierce hope and relentless faith to rally around those who are most often forgotten and discarded by society, “illuminating the striking truth that we are only as strong as our most vulnerable.”

Quinones will speak at the MHRB of Ashland County’s annual RSVP Conference on March 30, 2022. Mark your calendars and come prepared to be challenged and inspired by hope for the future of our communities.

Register for the RSVP Conference today and watch this short clip to learn more about Quinones’ most recent book:




When traumatic events happen in our lives, it can be difficult to move forward. Trauma impacts our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health, and without the guidance and support of our families, mental health professionals, and our community, we can resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms to handle the damage trauma inflicts on us.

The Mental Health and Recovery Board of Ashland County works closely with several systems in Ashland County to assist families and young people impacted by trauma. To help individuals impacted by trauma, these systems use a trauma-informed strategy called Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI).

What Is Trust-Based Relational Intervention?
TBRI is an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention that is designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children. Using TBRI, parents, and guardians can learn how to help children develop resilience following traumatic events.

TBRI uses three different principles:

Empowering Principles to address physical and environmental needs,
Connecting Principles for attachment needs and engagement, and
Correcting Principles to disarm fear-based behaviors.
By following these principles, families can understand better why a child is behaving in such a way and address that behavior with empathy, compassion, and the tools to meet the needs of that child.

Connecting Principles
Trauma can disrupt our ability to connect with children, and the disruption can come from both directions. Connecting Principles invite the adult in a relationship to analyze what they bring into various interactions with their children that might be impacting the health of that relationship and offer guiding strategies to build healthy attachment between a parent and child.

When an interaction with a child isn’t going how you hoped it would, it’s helpful to take a step back and be mindful of how you’re feeling in this moment. Our own physical and mental well-being impacts our ability to interact well with others. Are you hungry? Are you tired? Are you distracted?

Just as our present circumstances can impact our interactions with children, so can past events. Did something happen to you in the past that is triggering a response in the present moment? What does your own childhood tell you about the behavior you are currently experiencing?

There’s so much more encircling every interaction we have with our children than just this one conversation. Mindfulness strategies help us assess what is going on in our own lives and in our own past that may be contributing to the tension of the moment.

In addition to Mindfulness Strategies that can help you be more aware of the added dynamics between you and your child, Engagement Strategies are practical tools that can help you connect with people and form healthy attachments.

Engagement Strategies are easy things you can try today to connect with the kids in your life. Strategies like valuing eye contact, behavior matching, playful engagement, healthy touch, and authoritative voice are all tools you can use to create connections.

Empowering Principles
Our physical environment plays a significant part in how we respond and recover from trauma. Empowering Principles contribute to this process by addressing a child’s environment and physical health to make sure these needs are met.

Ecological Strategies acknowledge the challenges that trauma poses to a child’s ability to transition from one task to the next in their day and in their life. These strategies establish an environment that allows children to be successful and heal by providing structure and familiar, comforting routines. This scaffolding establishes rituals that become points of connection and attunement throughout their day.

The external environment addressed by Ecological Strategies is matched by the internal health needs addressed by Physiological Strategies. These strategies help a child’s brain and body excel. Research shows that over 85% of children from hard places have some sort of sensory need beyond that of a child who has not experienced early developmental trauma. Therefore, understanding how to interpret behavioral outbursts as possible sensory needs and then meet those needs is key in providing felt safety for our children.

TBRI recommends that children should eat a protein-rich snack every two hours, drink water consistently, and have a sensory-rich experience at least every two hours. This routine helps create stabilization in a child’s brain and body, which limits behavioral meltdowns and emotional outbursts.

Correcting Principles
When behavioral problems arise, TBRI provides a framework for correcting that behavior. It employs two strategies: Proactive Strategies and Responsive Strategies.

Frequently, a child’s behavior has to do with how a child has learned (or has not learned) how to get their needs met. Our children need to be taught the skills they need rather than be punished for not knowing the appropriate manner to behave. We can lead a child to develop those appropriate behaviors by adjusting our own approach to correction.

Proactive Strategies are taught to children during calm times when there isn’t a behavioral problem, and Responsive Strategies provide tools to parents or guardians when a child is in the middle of having a behavioral outburst. These tools offer research-based methods to calm a child and teach them skills to eliminate problematic behaviors in the future.

One approach to this strategy is the “re-do.” When the behavior isn’t what you expect from them, this provides your child a chance to try the behavior again in a playful and engaging way.

For example, your son yells, “Get me juice!”

You might respond with, “Whoa, buddy! Are you asking or telling? Why don’t you try that again, please?”

This approach avoids escalating the situation. No one is in trouble, your day keeps moving forward, but we have taken an opportunity to rewire the brain around the correct way to do things. It is far better to emphasize and practice the right way of doing things than it is to dwell on the wrong way.

TBRI is a powerful model for helping our young people recover from trauma and grow into healthy young adults. To learn more about TBRI and what it entails you can check out the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development’s website and YouTube channel, read The Connected Child by Drs. Purvis and Cross, or attend the Hope for the Journey simulcast training near you.

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