Returning to school and beginning a new academic year can cause feelings of anxiety and uncertainty in any circumstances, but this year it is extra stressful on students, parents, and educators alike due to COVID-19.
Each year, Mental Health America releases a back to school toolkit aimed at helping people start the new school year right with healthy habits and an awareness of stress and mental health. This year the kit contains materials aimed specifically at coping with the unusual circumstances of beginning school in the midst of a pandemic, with many schools opting for virtual or distance learning, at least for the first semester.
July is recognized as Black, Indigenous People, and People of Color (BIPOC) Mental Health Month. According to Mental Health America, this recognition began in 2008 as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, and has since been observed each July and was created to bring awareness to the unique struggles that underrepresented groups face regarding mental illness in the United States. Its namesake, Bebe Moore Campbell, was an American author, journalist, teacher, and mental health advocate who worked to shed light on the mental health needs of the Black community and other underrepresented communities.
BIPOC Mental Health month aims to draw attention to several key facts:
Trauma can affect the way we think, act, and feel. The impact of trauma on BIPOC has spanned generations due to centuries of systematic oppression.
BIPOC are often faced with years — even generations — of trauma, which translates to socioeconomic disparities and, in turn, is linked to mental health concerns today.
Systemic oppression is directly tied to the mental health of BIPOC. Historical and contemporary injustices continue to perpetuate trauma through generations and into today.
In recognizing and promoting BIPOC Mental Health Month, Mental Health American aims to create an opportunity where people can listen and learn from each other about why it’s important to talk about racism and mental health and how it’s affected them.
The first full week in October is recognized as Mental Illness Awareness Week, and both Mental Health America and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) are making stigma their topic to focus on for the week.
NAMI has launched CureStigma.org. The site provides a quiz that helps visitors assess their own stigma towards mental illness, and provides stories of hope and other resources.
Mental Health America similarly hopes to turn the focus on reducing the stigma that still surrounds mental illness. Their site encourages everyone to take a mental health screening and share the results with others to show that checking up on your mental health is nothing to be ashamed of, and that it’s okay not to be okay. They also encourage social media shares using #ThingsPeopleSaidAboutMyMentalIllness to spread awareness of the kinds of comments about mental illness that are hurtful.
While things are getting better, stigma remains a barrier standing in the way of more healthy discussions and solutions surrounding mental health. With 1 in 5 Americans affected by a mental health condition, stigma creates an environment of shame, fear and silence that prevents many people from seeking help and treatment.
The start of a new school year is upon us, and with it comes with feelings of excitement and anticipation, along with some fear and anxiety. As kids prepare to head back to class, they’re exposed to issues that may not have played a prominent role in their lives over the summer. Back-to-school time is a great time for parents to get a refresher course on the best ways to approach topics like body image, mental health, sex, drug and alcohol use, and LGBTQ issues when talking with their kids. And kids and teens can benefit from information about health, self-esteem, self-image, and disorders that may affect the way they see or treat themselves.
Mental Health America just released its 2016 Back to School Toolkit, which includes key messages, articles, social media messages and graphics, infographics, and other materials to help both parents and kids have a happy and healthy school year.
As Mental Health Month draws to a close, let’s take a moment to think about recovery. Check out the infographic below courtesy of Mental Health America for more.
Helplines play such a large role in recovery for many people. They’re often the first to hear from someone who is struggling, providing an empathetic, understanding, and safe place to talk. They connect people with counseling, medical treatment, and other resources. And they’re always there to listen and provide continued support to someone, regardless of where in the recovery process they may be. Our deepest thanks go out to all the helplines who are fostering good mental health in their communities!
Peer Supports for Transition-Aged YouthDate: Wednesday April 6, 2016
Time: 2pm EDT
Transition-Aged Youth(TAY), including foster youth, youth who have been through the juvenile justice system, and youth with mental health diagnoses, have unique needs that are often unaddressed. At this crucial stage . . . Read more and register
Peer-Run Respite ProgramsDate: Thursday, April 14, 2016
Time: 2pm EDT
Peer-Run Respite Programs serve as successful alternatives to hospitalization or other traditional crisis services with focuses on support, hope, and . . . Read more and register
Best Practices in the Use of Self-Directed Care to Support Recovery in WomenDate: Thursday, April 21, 2016
Time: 2pm EDT
Building relationships and support systems is an important part of recovery. Mental Health America’s highly innovative It’s My Life: Social Self-Directed Care program combined . . . Read more and register
We wanted to share this touching blog by Paul Gionfriddo of Mental Health America, telling the story of his family’s experience with mental illness and homelessness.
By Paul Gionfriddo
There are half a million homeless people with serious mental illnesses in desperate need of help yet underserved or ignored by our health and social-service systems. That number can seem overwhelming, but for me, it’s all about one person: my son Tim.
Tomorrow is Tim’s 30th birthday, and I wish I could spend it with him. But I don’t know where he is, so this year I’ll have to settle for the memories of his childhood birthdays. Tim was diagnosed with schizophrenia over two decades ago, and has been homeless on the streets of San Francisco for the last 10. I am a former state legislator, a former mayor, a CEO of a national organization…and even I couldn’t prevent it. Because people with mental illness become homeless as a result not of bad choices but of bad public policy.
There are many differences between me and Tim…I’m in my 60s, he’s half my age. I’m 5’9”, he can appear towering at 6’ 5”. I’ve got graying hair, his hair is dark. I’m white, he’s black. But all of those difference don’t really matter…the only reason Tim is homeless and I’m not is because he has a mental illness. That’s it. Our mental health system has failed him and countless others, and it’s time to change that.
So I can’t turn back time. I can’t spend his 30th birthday with my son. I will pray as I do every day that he is safe and that one day we can get him the help he so desperately needs. Until then, I’m going to keep fighting just like Tim does every day. I’m going to fight to change our mental health care system, to work to get people the help they need when they need it, and to get this country talking and addressing mental illness before Stage 4. I will continue to fight for Tim and for the millions like him affected by mental and substance use conditions who have not had a voice for far too long.
You can read Paul’s blog here, and also get other information on mental health, mental illness, and other topics on Mental Health America’s website.