Manatees and Mental Health Months

Perhaps we should try to act more like manatees…

manatee

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PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

In prior communications, we have discussed some of November’s recommended mental health awareness campaigns, including for Hindu Heritage and Native Americans. Learning about these dedicated months can not only convey their important health needs, but can help us appreciate the potential importance of their cultural contributions to all.

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There are also awareness months for animals. Probably Floridians and the “snowbirds” who come there in the winter are most aware that, annually, November is Manatee Awareness Month. The massive, but gentle mammals migrate from the colder ocean waters for refuge in the warmer inland waterways from mid-November to late March. There are festivals that celebrate their peaceful and playful interaction with humans. Manatees are favorites of my wife and I; we once bought a stuffed manatee doll to provide some positive triggers to our lived experience with them.

However, manatees are on the Endangered Species list, and the reason has much to do with us humans. Although there are many factors that contribute to manatee deaths, the spike seems to be due to starvation, and it is human activity that is changing their necessary diet. The warmer water due to human-caused climate change also leads to freshwater becoming salinized, allowing algae to invade their preferred waters and disrupt the ecosystem.

Once again in these months, awareness is a necessary start, but not sufficient end. As we turn into December, action to alter human behavior for the good, such as the peacefulness and playfulness of the manatees, is a social psychiatric prescription.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.

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