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Where to Start: Mental Health Month 2024

By Joni Schwager, Staunton Farm Foundation Executive Director

“Where do I start?” It’s a question we’ve all asked countless times. We ask where to start on homework, on projects, on cleaning – everything begins with a first step. Why should our mental health be any different?

It’s not. That’s why I’m thrilled to discuss this year’s Mental Health Month theme: Where to Start: Mental Health in a Changing World.

Staunton Farm Foundation was established in 1937 when mental health care was still a fledgling in the nest. Since then, we’ve seen incredible strides in medicine and care but new and more complex mental health and substance abuse challenges have also been on the rise.

Though many of our daily stressors – work, finances, relationships, politics – remain the same, our 21st-century world has become more plugged in than ever. Prior to the ‘digital age’ and adoption of our 24/7 social media and news cycle, many found it harder to step away and relax. How do you take time for your mental health when there’s always an email to answer, a call to make, an article to read, or something to post?

So, where do you start?

In my 26 years with Staunton Farm Foundation and 42 years in the industry, I know it starts with the basics of taking care of yourself:

  • Good rest and nutrition
  • Enjoy all things in moderation
  • Surround yourself with positive people
  • Take time for yourself

From there, examine your good days compared to your bad days. Does the good outweigh the bad? What adjustments can you make to have more good days? Can you ask for help or make a strategy?

Maybe those tactics are helpful and you feel good about your mental wellness. But what if you don’t? First, know that’s okay and you are not alone. Reach out to a trusted friend, faith leader, or medical professional – someone to help plan your next steps. From talk therapy to medication, there are so many treatment options to explore.

The world continues to change, as does mental health and our industry.

I have been honored to serve as Staunton Farm Foundation’s Executive Director since 1998 and do my part to ensure the Foundation is investing in a future where mental and behavioral health is supported, understood, and accepted.

As change touches all things, I’m happy to announce that I will be retiring at the end of 2024. Staunton Farm Foundation’s Board of Directors is conducting a search for the next Executive Director and there will be more information to follow.

For now, there’s plenty of work to be done! Join us in celebrating Mental Health Month and working for mental wellness at

If you’re struggling with your mental health, consider talking to a trusted loved one, your primary care physician, a faith leader, or call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.