We as a nation are experiencing the profound anguish and fear of another school shooting. Again mental illness becomes the too-easy target.
For the longest time, I have argued that mental illness and mass shootings are two different subjects.
I was wrong. Mental health belongs in this conversation, but we’re thinking too small.
The truth is: Even if the U.S. were able to eliminate mental illness as a factor, the nation would reduce gun-related crimes by less than 5 percent, according to CDC data. The truth is that people living with mental illness are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence.
Another truth: Violence is an infectious disease, and this nation is in the throes of a full-scale epidemic.
I was wrong because this unremitting violence has created a national mental health crisis. Every school shooting exposes more people to trauma, and not just those directly affected. Our first responders? What we demand of them is simply inhuman.
We’re traumatized also by the murder of Chicago Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer, and by the hundreds of acts of violence in this city every week.
Violence doesn’t have to happen near us to affect our mental wellness. NAMI Chicago’s Ending the Silence high school program helps students from around the city who are struggling with real trauma simply because they live here.
One of the hardest things we ask people living with mental illness to do is raise their hands to ask for help. The stigma society places on mental illness is so pervasive and so corrosive that for many the risk is simply too great. With every shooting, they see how society handles mental illness. And what if a person living with mental illness finds the courage to seek help? They’re met with an inadequate system.
The scary reality is that if our mental health system fails when one person raises his or her hand, how can it hope to help the entire country?
The United States needs a moon-shot level effort to bring our mental health system out of the 19th century. As a nation, we have a childlike grasp of the subject. Popular culture prizes wellness and living in the moment, but we still talk in hushed voices about “mental breakdowns.” We expect grade-school kids to know first aid, but commonsense mental health techniques are a mystery to college graduates.
It doesn’t have to be this way. For centuries infectious diseases terrified humanity, until science found the microscopic culprits. For centuries, we spoke in a whisper of the Big C, until immunotherapies and other treatments have given us hope of ending cancer’s terrible grip.
Violence is an infectious disease, and we know it affects us in a physical way. Researchers are learning more daily about brain function and how integral mental health is in physical well-being.
NAMI Chicago’s mission is to improve the quality of life for those whose lives are affected by mental illness. That’s all of us.
This message first appeared in an email to NAMI Chicago’s supporters and is reprinted with permission from Alexa James, MS, LCSW who serves as Executive Director of NAMI Chicago. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of CharityLogic and iCarol.
Dan Maxwell, called “DMAX”, was a 3-sport athlete at Radnor High School
Athletes are perceived as successful and strong, able to meet every challenge. As a result, there is increased pressure both on and off the field to push forward, train hard, beat the competition, and stay silent when things get tough. Athletes are expected to juggle practice, games, training, families, social lives, and for younger athletes, school. It’s no wonder that athletes are more susceptible to developing mental health issues than non-athletes, including eating disorders, anxiety, burnout, depression, and suicide.
In her memoir “In The Water, They Can’t See You Cry” Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard chronicles her experience with mental illness and the pressure she faced to stay silent:
“I wrapped myself up in sadness like a martyr…I didn’t talk about what was happening to me with anybody — not my dad, mom, friends, or coach. Hop into the pool, do your sets, dinner, homework, bed. Business as usual…Now the pool had become another spot of despair. My safe zone was now a place where my brain constantly battled itself.”
Mars’ Hill College writes in their sports blog, No One Looking: The Stigma of Mental Illness in Sport, “The larger problem is that there is a deep-seated sports spirit that has embraced a tradition and notion of immense mental toughness and emotional resilience that makes it difficult, and nearly impossible, for athletes to call out for help.” Some professional athletes have taken the stage recently to speak about their experiences with mental distress, but mental health is still largely unaddressed in the sporting world, and often ignored by sports organizations.
DMAX Foundation believes that it is time to break the silence, because Courageous Conversations about mental health are critical to stemming the tragic consequences of untreated emotional pain. In service of this, DMAX Foundation will be bringing together a panel of professional athletes to discuss mental health in the sporting world, moderated by Blair Thomas, Penn State and New York Jets Running Back. Other panelists include Michael Haynes, Penn State and Chicago Bears Defensive End, Education Leader; Charlene Morett, Olympian and Penn State Field Hockey Coach; Brady Kramer, Montreal Canadiens, Athletic Director and Coach; Greg Ambrogi, UPenn Football and co-founder, Kyle Ambrogi Foundation.
NASW-PA Chapter is a co-sponsor of this workshop. 2.5 CEs will be awarded for completion of this course. Special discounts for students, military/first responders and athletic coaches. Sponsorship opportunities are available.
In addition to hosting mental health events for the community, DMAX Foundation is establishing DMAX Clubs on college campuses as environments for students to get together and talk about how they are doing, how their friends are doing, and how they can help each other. DMAX Clubs help reduce the sense of isolation and hopelessness for students who may be suffering from mental or emotional issues and can’t or don’t seek the help they need.
If you know a college student who would be interested in starting or joining a DMAX Club, work for a college that would like to establish a DMAX Club, want to volunteer, or would like to support their efforts through donation or sponsorship, contact DMAX Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guest blogger views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of CharityLogic and iCarol
Wednesday January 31st is a big day for Canadian mental health initiatives: It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day!
This annual event draws attention to the topic of mental health, particularly the stigma attached to mental illness that prevents many from seeking help. The idea is that if we all talk more openly about mental health and are open to conversations about it, it will lessen the shame attached to mental illness. Bell also champions access to care, workplace mental health, and research.
On Bell Let’s Talk Day, people are encouraged to take to social media and discuss the topics of mental health and mental illness, and use the hashtag #BellLetsTalk on platforms like Instagram and Twitter, and watching the Bell Let’s Talk video featured on their social media pages. On Facebook, watching the video or using their special profile photo frame raises funds. And Snapchat users can watch a video or use special filters to help raise funds. For participating in these various social media activities, Bell donates 5¢ to mental health initiatives and programs across Canada (including many services that are part of the iCarol family!). Bell customers can also participate by texting or making calls. Find out more about how to take part.
Bell Let’s Talk has had a profound impact across Canada. Since the campaign began in 2011 there have been nearly 730 million interactions around Bell Let’s Talk, with over $86 million donated to mental health initiatives. And 4 out of 5 Canadians say they are more aware of mental health issues since Bell Let’s Talk launched.
To learn more about Bell Let’s Talk, check out their website and toolkit that contains everything you need to participate. We hope you’ll follow us on Twitter and tweet along with us to raise awareness and remove the stigma from the conversation about mental health!
Did you know that 87% of college students feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities and 39% feel so depressed it is difficult to function? (Source: American College Health Association, National College Health Assessment) DMAX Foundation seeks to improve those statistics by creating social clubs with a mental health focus on college campuses throughout the nation to enable students to talk to each other about how they are doing, and to help each other.
DMAX Foundation was started by Laurie and Lee Maxwell, after the tragic loss of their son, Dan, to suicide at the age of 18. Dan had been plagued with mental and emotional pain for eighteen months, without relief, before he took his life. He tried to get better in every way possible. He and his family saw physicians, psychiatrists, and psychologists, tried medications and dietary changes, and conducted tireless research. One thing the Maxwells were not able to do is speak out. It was too difficult to confide in friends and relatives about what was happening inside their family.
Thus DMAX, named in Dan Maxwell’s honor (DMAX was the nickname his teammates gave him), was founded to eliminate stigma and encourage safe and caring conversations about mental and emotional issues in our youth. To accomplish these goals, DMAX is establishing Clubs on college campuses which provide environments for all students to get together and talk about how they are doing, how their friends are doing and how they can help each other. DMAX Club officers get the opportunity to build valuable leadership skills, are trained to recognize mental health emergencies, learn how to listen (versus give therapy), and extend the campus’ mental health resources by making referrals to the Counseling Center. While other college mental health organizations emphasize the importance of having conversations about mental wellness, DMAX is putting it into practice, providing the space and the tools for Conversations That Matter to take place.
DMAX Foundation is currently focused on establishing clubs in the Philadelphia and surrounding areas, with a plan to expand all over the country in the future. DMAX Clubs have been recently established at Penn State University and Drexel University, joining Elon University, which began in spring 2016.
You can help DMAX establish clubs throughout the nation by:
Joining DMAX’s mailing list
Making a tax-deductible donation
Attending DMAX events in the Philadelphia area
Sponsoring one of its events
Connecting DMAX Foundation with schools and students interested in starting DMAX Clubs
May 1st marks the beginning of Mental Health Month. It’s a fitting time for all mental health advocates to recommit ourselves to spreading awareness and education, and opening ourselves to our own further enlightenment on the subject.
A number of well-known organizations are celebrating the month with valuable information on their website and social media feeds. Here are just a few:
Mental Health America has a Mental Health Month Toolkit available for download on their website. Their theme this year is “Risky Business” which encourages people to be aware and mindful of habits and behaviors that may increase the risk of developing or exacerbating mental illness.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reminds us of the prevalence of mental health conditions, affecting 1 in 5 Americans, and how those conditions impact friends and family as well. Their #IntoMentalHealth campaign encourages discussion and advocacy for awareness and reduction of stigma and prejudice.
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) urges us to #GetLoud as they celebrate Mental Health Week from May 1st through 8th. Going further than just reflecting on one’s mental health, CMHA encourages Canadians to demand the services, programs, and respect necessary to be well by getting loud and writing to members of parliament, speaking out on social media and in public, and donating time and money.
The National Council for Behavioral Health is promoting three key topics through infographics available on their website. These include Women’s Mental Health, Super Skills to Help a Friend, and a graphic that helps decipher whether a teen’s behavior may be part of their normal development or a warning sign of mental illness.
Undeniably one of the hottest topics in the field of mental health and suicide prevention right now is the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” which has generated some praise and a lot of criticism for its portrayal of teen suicide. While many argue that it’s doing a good thing by bringing the topic out into the open in such a huge way, others worry that its methods are unethical, that it discourages teens from seeking help from adults and professionals, and that it romanticizes suicide and presents it in a harmfully graphic way. School systems across North America have sent home letters advising parents of the series’ popularity and are encouraging adults watch the show to assess its appropriateness for their teen and to protect youth who may be particularly vulnerable to its content, as well as watching it with teens to prompt discussion and processing of the content. For its part, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention held a webinar on the topic, which quickly booked up. They’re promoting awareness of risk factors and warning signs as a part of Mental Health Month and have made the webinar recording available for viewing.
We hope these resources will help you spread the word about Mental Health Month. Is your organization holding an event or do you have your own content to share? We’d be happy to help you spread the word, just leave us a comment below!
From April 2nd – 5th, iCarol Co-founders Jackie and Neil McKechnie will attend the National Council for Behavioral Health Conference in Seattle, Washington. Many of our friends and clients have encouraged us to attend and have spoken highly of the conference, the people and organizations it attracts and the fantastic learning opportunities it presents, so we’re looking forward to experiencing this first hand.
In case you are not yet familiar with this organization, the National Council for Behavioral Health with its 2,800 member organizations, is dedicating to serving millions of adults, children and families living with mental illnesses and addictions. The cornerstone of their mission is to advocate for Americans’ access to comprehensive, high-quality care so that everyone has the tools needed for recovery. Many of you may also be familiar with their Mental Health First Aid program, a course that many of our users have not only taken, but their agencies often provide this training to their community. This highly impactful program has trained nearly 1 million people to play a role in helping someone experiencing a mental health or addictions emergency by providing immediate intervention and empathy while encouraging professional support. This program empowers all people, regardless of their personal field of expertise, to care for others and not ignore situations or feel powerless to help when they see mental health emergencies play out in front of them. It also highlights the importance of everyone having basic knowledge of mental health and addictions issues, which ultimately saves lives and reduces stigma.
We’re looking forward to learning more about this organization, attending some amazing sessions, and connecting with those in attendance to see how we might be able to work together. If you’re an iCarol user and you’re going to be there, we’d really love to connect so we can say “hi” and catch up with you, and perhaps grab a bite to eat or cup of coffee in between sessions. With this being such a large conference and knowing how much there is going on, it’d be great to plan ahead and schedule a time to connect and make sure we don’t miss one another. Please reach out to so we can find a time to meet up at what is sure to be a great event. See you in Seattle!
Wednesday January 25th is a big day for Canadian mental health initiatives: It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day!
This annual event draws attention to mental health, particularly the stigma attached to mental illness that prevents many from seeking help. The idea is that if we all talk more openly about mental health and are open to conversations about it, it will lessen the shame attached to mental illness. Bell also champions access to care, workplace mental health, and research.
On Bell Let’s Talk Day, people are encouraged to take to social media and discuss the topics of mental health and mental illness, and use the hashtag #BellLetsTalk on platforms like Instagram and Twitter, and watching a video on the Bell Let’s Talk image via Bell’s Facebook page. For participating in these various social media activities using the hashtag, Bell donates $.05 to mental health initiatives and programs across Canada (including many services that are part of the iCarol family!). Bell customers can also participate by texting or making calls. Find out more about how to take part.
To learn more about the impact of Bell Let’s Talk, check out the video below. And check out the Bell Let’s Talk website for more information and a toolkit with everything you need to participate. We hope you’ll follow us on Twitter and Tweet along with us to raise awareness and remove the stigma from the conversation about mental health!
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!