Mental Health Matters: May’s Efforts to Educate and Empower

by Kashley Jones, FNP-C

Certified by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners 



“Mental Health Matters: May’s Efforts to Educate and Empower”

As a provider deeply invested in the well-being of my patients and community, I’m acutely aware of the prevalence and impact of mental health conditions, particularly depression. For me, a tragedy that struck close to home ignited my passionate commitment to mental health advocacy and support. With May marking Mental Health Month, it’s crucial to delve into the statistics surrounding depression and explore how this month’s efforts are vital in educating and empowering individuals facing this challenging condition.

Understanding the Statistics:

Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders globally, affecting people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide, with an estimated 264 million individuals affected. In the United States alone, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that approximately 17.3 million adults experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year.

The Impact of Depression:

Depression extends far beyond feelings of sadness or low mood; it can significantly impair daily functioning and quality of life. Individuals living with depression may experience a range of symptoms, including persistent sadness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, changes in appetite or weight, sleep disturbances, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, and difficulty concentrating or making decisions. Left untreated, depression can lead to serious consequences, including impaired relationships, decreased productivity, and in severe cases, thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

May’s Efforts to Educate and Empower:

Mental Health Month plays a pivotal role in raising awareness about depression and empowering individuals to seek help and support. Through educational initiatives, community outreach, and advocacy efforts, May provides a platform to destigmatize depression and promote understanding and empathy. By sharing information about the signs and symptoms of depression, available treatment options, and avenues for support, we empower individuals to recognize when they or someone they care about may be struggling and to take proactive steps towards healing. 

The Importance of Early Intervention:

Early intervention is key in effectively managing depression and preventing its escalation. By educating individuals about the importance of seeking help early and reducing barriers to accessing mental health services, we can facilitate timely interventions and improve outcomes for those living with depression. Whether it’s through therapy, medication, support groups, or lifestyle modifications, various evidence-based treatments are available to help individuals manage their symptoms and reclaim their well-being.

Building Supportive Communities:

Community support is instrumental in creating an environment where individuals feel safe and supported in addressing their mental health needs. Mental Health Month encourages communities to unite, offer support, and foster open dialogue about depression. By creating spaces for individuals to share their experiences, seek validation, and connect with others who understand, we can reduce feelings of isolation and promote a sense of belonging for those living with depression.

My Passion Towards Mental Health: 

After experiencing the profound loss of a beloved family member, CJ Smuin, we were deeply moved to take action in his memory. In honor of CJ’s life, our family founded the non-profit organization CJ Smuin Memorial Foundation in remembrance and with a passionate commitment to raising awareness about suicide prevention and mental health.

The CJ Smuin Memorial Foundation (, is dedicated to breaking the silence surrounding suicide, fostering understanding, and empowering individuals who may be struggling with mental health challenges, especially the youth. Through advocacy, education, and community events, we strive to create a more compassionate and supportive community where individuals feel safe to seek help and support.


As we observe Mental Health Month this May, let us reaffirm our commitment to educating ourselves and others about depression and empowering individuals to prioritize their mental well-being. By raising awareness, promoting early intervention, building supportive communities, and advocating for accessible mental health services, we can make a profound difference in the lives of those affected by depression. Together, let us embrace May’s efforts to educate and empower, ensuring no one faces depression alone.

You are not alone. The world is a better place with YOU in it.

-Kashley Jones, FNP-C



Ensuring Safe Play: The Importance of Preparticipation Sports Physicals

by Lindsey Rux, FNP-C

Organized sports have held a special spot in my heart from a young girl playing three sports, through my years playing college basketball. This lifelong love of athletics built my special interest in helping young athletes safely prepare for play. With over half of the child/adolescent population in the United States participating in organized sports, pre-participation physical evaluations (sports physicals) are essential in the safety and proper clearance of this population. In addition to sports-related clearance, a sports physical is a wonderful way to update the child’s preventative care all in one office visit.

At Gagon Family Medicine, we strive to provide the best care and safety for all athletes and encourage all young athletes to receive a preparticipation physical evaluation (sports physical) to determine medical eligibility for sports. We follow the recommendations for sports physicals created by a diverse task force including the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine, and American Osteopathic Academy of Sports Medicine.

Key recommendations include:

  • Determine general physical and psychological health.
  • Evaluate for life-threatening or disabling conditions, including risk of sudden cardiac arrest.
  • Structured physical examination focusing on cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and neurologic systems.
  • Screening for depression, anxiety, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders.
  • Exams should take place in a medical office rather than a group setting.

The first part of the sports physical involves the parent and child filling out a medical history form that encompasses general physical/mental health questions, immunizations, social history, heart, and bone/joint health. This ensures that the health care provider understands all medical history for all body systems and can review any previous injuries (such as bone/joint injuries, concussions).

Concussion screening is essential in the clearance of an athlete thus we screen all athletes with a Standard Assessment of Concussion form. This form helps provide a baseline screening score so that if a concussion does occur, we can repeat this test to better understand the degree of concussion and develop the proper treatment plan.

Once the history form and concussion screening are both completed the medical provider will review all history, screenings, and vitals with parent/athlete. The physical exam portion of a sports physical includes the following: appearance, eyes/ears/nose/throat, lymph nodes, heart, lungs, abdomen, skin, neurological and musculoskeletal systems.

Because we find this part of an athlete’s care so important, we donate $25 per sports physical back to the sports team of your choice.

Schedule your child’s preparticipation sports exam today!

Diet modifications to help control blood pressure

Diet Modifications to Help Control Blood Pressure

by Amanda Lively, FNP-C


How can I help control my blood pressure?

Multiple factors can affect your blood pressure, so there are multiple changes you can make to help control it. One of the easiest ways to help control your blood pressure is through diet changes, such as limiting salt, caffeine, and alcohol and eating lean meats and vegetables/fruits.

  • The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends consuming no more than 1500 milligrams (mg) of salt in a day. Salt is found in many processed, prepackaged, and fast foods such as frozen pizza, frozen dinners, canned vegetables/fruits, and deli meats. The amount of salt in these foods can be found on the nutritional label under sodium.
  • Do not forget about the salt you add to your food, ¼ teaspoon has 575 mg of sodium! Mrs. Dash is a brand of seasonings that can add flavor but is low in sodium.
  • AHA recommends the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet which includes fruits, vegetables, whole wheat bread/rice/pasta, low fat milk/yogurt/cheese, chicken, fish, nuts, legumes, and low-fat vegetable oils. You can still have red meat but limit it to once a week.
  • Eating fresh produce and meat is best but cost can always be a limiting factor. Frozen vegetables and fruits have less sodium than canned vegetables and fruits, and they can be more cost effective than fresh produce. You can always compare the nutritional labels to see which has less sodium.
  • These diet changes can lead to weight loss. With five pounds of weight loss, you can lower your blood pressure by 5-10 points!
  • Caffeine is a stimulant which can increase blood pressure and limiting your caffeine intake to two cups of coffee a day will help keep blood pressure under control. Caffeine can be in supplements and over the counter medications such as pre-workout powders and Excedrin so these need to be limited as well.
  • Drinking two or more alcoholic drinks can increase your risk of high blood pressure. A drink is considered five ounces of wine, twelve ounces of beer, or one ounce of liquor; you can still enjoy a drink, but moderation is key.
  • All these lifestyle modifications will help control your blood pressure and decrease your risk of heart disease.

Helpful Links:

Healthy Recipes from the American Heart Association

Dash Diet Resources


The Value of Preventative Healthcare

by Camrey Tuttle, DNP, FNP-C


In a world where the pace of life seems to be ever-accelerating, taking proactive steps to safeguard our health often takes a backseat to daily responsibilities. However, the old adage “prevention is better than cure” holds true, emphasizing the importance of preventative healthcare in maintaining overall well-being. Among the key pillars of preventative healthcare, annual physical exams play a pivotal role, offering a proactive approach to health management.

The Value of Preventative Healthcare:

Preventative healthcare is a whole-body approach that aims to identify and address potential health issues before they escalate into more serious conditions. Rather than waiting for symptoms to manifest, preventative measures focus on lifestyle choices, screenings, and regular check-ups to mitigate health risks. By adopting a preventative mindset, individuals can significantly reduce the burden of chronic diseases, enhance their quality of life, and potentially extend their lifespan.

Annual Physical Exams: A Foundation for Prevention:

One cornerstone of preventative healthcare is the annual physical exam, a comprehensive health assessment that goes beyond treating existing ailments. These exams are not just reserved for those with chronic conditions or advanced age but are beneficial for individuals of all ages. Here’s why:

  1. Early Detection of Potential Issues:

    Annual physical exams serve as an opportunity for healthcare professionals to detect potential health issues in their early stages. Through screenings, blood tests, and a thorough physical examination, doctors can identify risk factors for conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. Detecting these issues early allows for timely intervention and improved outcomes.

  2. Personalized Health Planning:

    Each individual is unique, and their health needs vary. Annual physical exams provide a platform for doctors to assess an individual’s specific health profile, considering factors such as current medical problems, age, family history, and lifestyle. Based on this information, healthcare providers can offer personalized advice on nutrition, exercise, and other lifestyle modifications to enhance overall health.

  3. Building a Long-Term Relationship with Healthcare Providers:

    Regular visits for annual physical exams foster a long-term relationship between individuals and their healthcare providers. This connection allows for better communication and understanding of the patient’s health history, facilitating more accurate diagnoses and tailored healthcare plans.

  4. Preventing Future Complications:

    By identifying and addressing health concerns early on, annual physical exams help prevent the progression of minor issues into more severe complications. This proactive approach not only improves health outcomes but also reduces the financial and emotional burdens associated with treating advanced diseases.

  5. Promoting Mental Health:

    Annual physical exams aren’t solely focused on the body; they also encompass mental health assessments. Given the interconnectedness of physical and mental well-being, addressing mental health concerns during these exams is crucial. Early detection and intervention for conditions such as depression and anxiety can lead to more effective treatment strategies.