Wellness Together: Cultivating Community and Mental Health

4 Modules
a photo of avocados

Leaning into conversations about mental health by first thinking about people who love avocados. 

By Ivan S. Villaseñor Madriz, Building Community

Many people love avocado toast, or guacamole with chips, or the simple and classic snack of avocado lightly seasoned with salt. Interesting fact: between 2000 and 2017 nearly 50,000 people landed in a hospital’s ER  due to avocado cutting related injuries. Although I did not need medical assistance, I had an avocado cutting injury several years ago. Looking at the palm of my hand today, you would not see any indication that it was once sliced open and bleeding a surprising amount. 

I would like to take credit for my body’s natural healing abilities, but without any added or conscious effort white blood cells rushed to the wound, a blood clot formed a thin scab, and skin was regenerated. All I had to do was keep it clean and avoid re-traumatizing the injury. My guess is that the 50,000 people who sought medical attention probably needed some stitches to aid the healing process and avoid messy scars. Other than some self-criticism over clumsy culinary skills and a couple of weeks of healing, our lives were most likely unfazed. 

Very similar to the cut on my hand, there have been numerous moments when my thoughts, emotions, and behaviors have experienced some form of injury. Depending on the severity, sometimes all I needed to do was the equivalent of sanitizing the injury and avoiding re-traumatizing thoughts, feelings, or behaviors; other times I needed the equivalent of visiting the ER by taking advantage of clinical and traditional mental health care. Some of these intangible injuries have left no trace while others have left some scarring.

Numerous youth serving programs have the capacity to immediately intervene if/when a member of their community is physically injured or becomes unwell. I am certain that my avocado cutting injury would have been equally treated whether making food at home or during lunch break in the office - first aid kits are essentially everywhere. Unfortunately, the same cannot be assumed about moments when someone is experiencing a mental health challenge. Every year, May is dedicated to slowly increasing our collective capacity to respond, treat, and accept that our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors can benefit from a parallel response. 

We can gain a lot by comparing mental health to physical health. And although there are many similarities there are also plenty of differences that may become a barrier to receive appropriate care unless we familiarize ourselves with how emotions, thoughts, and behaviors work with or against our daily lives. Most of us have experienced painful impacts from challenges to our or a loved ones’ mental health. Despite the commonality and our shared experiences with the full spectrum of mental health, it remains a topic that is not met with the same ease or effectiveness as with an avocado cutting injury. 

This mental health awareness month we hope you join Youth Collaboratory on a project to better meet the mental health needs of our communities by participating in our four week newsletter series Wellness Together: Cultivating Community and Mental Health. Over four weeks you will be asked to consider mental health as it relates to yourself, your place of work, your community, and the experiences of youth and young adults. 

Each week will share information, responsive resources, and a brief practice to explore how each of us can better respond to ourselves and others whenever the equivalent of a cooking accident occurs to our mental health (don’t worry, avocados will not be mentioned in any of the newsletters). 

This toolkit was released as a newsletter series in May 2023. Learn more about new training and funding opportunities, news and policy updates, and how we can collectively strengthen outcomes for youth and young adults. Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest delivered straight to your inbox.