One of the reasons that May is recognized as Mental Health Month is that despite continuous advances in research, treatment and awareness efforts, there is still much work to be done. Many people aren’t exposed to mental health issues until they are directly impacted by a tragedy such as suicide. Mental Health Month is an effort to promote a more positive, proactive approach to addressing mental illnesses.
Getting the Word Out
In the same way we educate communities about physical health concerns such as heart disease, it’s critical that we start conversations about what mental illness is, how to recognize it and the fact that it is a treatable illness. Here are some simple steps you can take to help raise the collective consciousness about mental health where you live:
- Talk with everyone you know. Ask family, friends and coworkers how they’re doing and really listen to the answers. If they give any indication that they are depressed or stressed out, let them know that there are resources available to help them. - If you sense that they might be considering self-harm or suicide, encourage them to seek help immediately and assist them as appropriate.
- Open up about your experience. If you’ve struggled or are struggling with mental illness, share your story. Hearing another person is going through the same thing you are can be a relief. And, it can be the nudge a person needs to get help and look into treatment.
- Encourage kind language. When you hear people around you talk about mental illness in disparaging terms, politely ask them to consider the impact of their words. Any language that reinforces the stigma of mental illness is harmful and might keep someone from getting help. Further explore the importance of person-centered language, which respects the consumer by separating the symptoms from the person with thoughtful language.
- Educate yourself about mental illness. It’s not uncommon for people to misunderstand mental illness. Learn more about it and share what you learn. This includes talking with children about mental health in age-appropriate terms. Children are not immune to mental illness and can experience conditions like depression and anxiety as early as elementary school.
- Coordinate a mental health screening event. Promoting an event or asking that mental health screening be part of a community health fair can encourage people to take action regarding their mental health. You can learn more about screening at websites like www.mentalhealthscreening.org and www.helpyourselfhelpothers.org.
- Volunteer. Mental health organizations like Community Reach Center frequently need help with specific initiatives and ongoing efforts. Your phone call or email will be greeted with heartfelt appreciation.
- Leverage social media. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter can be great forums for inspiring people to be open-minded and inquisitive when it comes to mental illness.
- Encourage physical health that supports mental health. Help people understand that physical health can have a direct impact on mental health. Eating healthy and getting plenty of exercise and sleep all play a part in a person’s mental and emotional state.
The Power of One
Mental Health Month is the perfect time to start conversations in your community about mental health illnesses such as depression, anxiety and suicide. And if you’re wondering whether one person’s efforts can make a difference, the answer is “Absolutely!” Every conversation you have about the importance of recognizing and treating mental illness creates a ripple that reaches people in your circle and far beyond it.
If you or someone you know needs help with any mental or emotional issues, contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the Northern Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.