Much of the focus worldwide in the last year has been the global Coronavirus pandemic, including guidelines from staying healthy and avoiding contracting COVID-19 or passing the disease to others. And while this is obviously a critical topic, it should not be forgotten that our mental health, especially during the pandemic, is important, too.
May is Mental Health Month, and organizations around the world are sharing information about how to obtain and maintain good mental health.
Each year since 1949, Mental Health America and their affiliates have led observance of Mental Health Month. This includes release of an annual Mental Health Month toolkit, which you can download here. They also have a number of resources available on their Mental Health Month web page, this year focusing on Tools 2 Thrive — practical tools that everyone can use to improve their mental health and increase their resiliency regardless of their personal situation. Topics include:
- Adapting after trauma and stress
- Dealing with anger and frustration
- Getting out of thinking traps
- Processing big changes
- Taking time for yourself
- Radical acceptance
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is focusing on the power of connection and supporting one another, and promoting their core message of eliminating stigma, by sharing the message that those who many be having mental health difficulties or experiencing mental illness are not alone. Mental health conditions affect approximately 1 in 5 individuals during a given year.
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has a number of articles and resources available in recognition of Canada’s Mental Health Week (May 3-9) which are available here. CMHA calls attention to the fact that, when asked how they are, people and Canadians in particular often respond with, “I’m fine,” even if they are not. CMHA is promoting more social connection and “getting real about how you feel.”
We hope during this Mental Health Month, our blog readers will take the time to engage with these and other mental health leaders to learn more and promote better mental health for all people, especially in light of the daily stressors and crises we all continue to face due to COVID-19.
Each year during the first full week of October, mental health organizations draw attention to mental health conditions through Mental Illness Awareness Week.
Mental illnesses are medical conditions that effect millions of people, however they are still misunderstood and stigmatized, and those living with these conditions still face prejudice that those with other medical conditions don’t experience.
The aim of Mental Illness Awareness Week is to provide public education highlighting the fact that these illnesses are medical conditions and should be treated as such.
For more information on Mental Illness Awareness Week, and to participate with promoting the efforts around public information on mental illness, visit these resources:
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.
For more information on Mental Illness Awareness Week, including graphics and suggested social media posts your organization can share, visit http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/MIAW and https://www.nami.org/miaw.
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.
It is past time that we as a nation have an adult conversation about mental health. For years, my colleagues in the field have developed solid, actionable plans. It is past time now to act on them. Let us work together on local, state and national levels to build a robust mental health system—not because just one person needs help but because we all do.
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.