May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s a great time to get involved in promoting greater understanding of mental health issues and helping those who are dealing with a mental illness.
NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, encourages individuals and organizations to take the “stigmafree pledge.” It has three parts:
- Learn about mental health—educate myself and others
- See the person not the illness—strive to listen, understand, tell my own story
- Take action—spread the word, raise awareness, make a difference
Let’s break each of these steps down a little.
Learn more about mental health
There are still many myths and incorrect information about mental health circulating in the media and among the general population.
NAMI offers several great infographics to educate yourself and others about the current and accurate stats on mental health conditions for adults and youth. Check them out here.
See the person, not the illness
The 2016 theme for Mental Health Month by Mental Health America (MHA) is “Life with a Mental Illness.” They call on individuals to share what life with a mental illness feels like for them in words, pictures or video on social media. The MHA toolkit is here.
MHA hopes these personal accounts will help break down negative thoughts and feelings about mental illnesses, and to show others that they are not alone.
There are lots of ways to get the word out to raise awareness about mental health. Here are a few ideas from NAMI and MHA:
- Distribute fact sheets and brochures about mental health and local mental health organizations at community events.
- Post links to mental health resources on your personal or organization’s social media pages.
- Ask your governor or mayor to declare May as Mental Health Month.
- Organize a community run or walk for mental health.
- Host a mental health screening or other educational event at a local venue (e.g., town hall, firehouse, church, mall or library).
- Plan a day at your state Capitol. Invite advocates, consumers, concerned citizens and community leaders to attend. Visit with your state and federal policymakers to discuss your community’s mental health needs.
- Host a meet-and-greet with local leaders in mental health. Ask a consumer to share why mental health is so important to them.
These are some great ideas. But if you’re new to the mental health advocacy world, you may feel a bit overwhelmed at the thought of getting out there to promote awareness.
A great way to get started is to connect with the mental health organizations like NAMI and MHA (and many other wonderful groups) in your area. You will find they are warm, welcoming and happy to have you onboard.
Spreading awareness about mental health is important and it takes all of us to change long-held negative attitudes and stereotypes about mental illness. Let’s get started.
Here’s a question: What can you do to help promote greater awareness of mental health issues in your community? Please leave a comment. Also, please subscribe to my blog and feel free to follow me on Twitter, “like” my Facebook page, or connect on LinkedIn. Thanks!