Darin, RVP, Mid-Atlantic Region, Shares For Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month—a cultural milestone that impacts us all. I'd like to share how both mental health and mental illness impact my life, and I would also encourage you all to lean into the awareness part of this month and share with each other—your PetSmart family.

Having a family member affected by mental illness is the greatest strain on my mental health and well-being. For several years, my father has suffered from Alzheimer's, which has caused hardship for both him and our family. I have “talked my mother down” at least once a week for the last year and can see the strain wearing on her as well. My father can no longer do simple tasks such as putting on socks or writing his name. He is easily stressed or confused, often leading to unpredictable decisions. This, unfortunately, has led to more than a few calls from police or security guards when things have gone awry. I sometimes joke about things he does, like putting on pajamas to go to dinner, but I do so because of the feeling of helplessness we all have against the disease. I mostly want to scream or cry but joking seems the more socially considerate thing to do for some reason. Even with this situation, there are people out there who have it much worse. Perhaps with undiagnosed problems or lack of resources to help cope and that too is both saddening and frustrating.


Bringing it back to PetSmart, what does me sharing this mean? Well for me it means a giant THANK YOU to my PetSmart team. Without even knowing it, my team is one of the best things for my own mental health I have. The simple predictability of opening the sales report every day, the normalcy of visiting stores with my team members, and the resulting feeling of certainty and control is a calm that just isn’t possible when I spend time with my parents. Sometimes we aren’t even aware of the strain we are under until we take a minute and relax and reflect.


With that, my last ask of you all this month is to develop a routine, no matter how small, to reflect on your own mental health. Not sure where to start? If enrolled in one of our UHC health plans, check out Sanvello, an app to help support mental wellness. There are many great features, including my go-to—a short relaxation/meditation sequence. If you are not on a PetSmart medical plan, I recommend you check out Ally, our free associate assistance program where you also have access to a catalog of resources.


Thank you again to my PetSmart Family. ❤️