In this segment of Centric Commemorates, two of our teammates reflect on Mental Health Awareness Month.
Part of our Centric Commemorates series.
Mental Health America (MHA) started Mental Health Month in 1949 to communicate the connection of mental health to overall health. Almost 75 years later, Mental Health Month continues to drive awareness of mental health’s impact on overall wellness, this year focusing on Tools 2 Thrive.
Statistically, 1 in 5 Americans experience mental illness during their lifetime, but everyone has experiences in life that can challenge their mental health. We need to shed the stigma long associated with mental health and address it right away. We have an opportunity to work on maintaining and building good mental health habits before we hit one of life’s lows.
That guiding principle is the basis of MHA’s “B4Stage4 Philosophy.” When we think about cancer, heart disease or diabetes, we don’t wait years to treat them, we treat them immediately. We should do the same for our mental health.
Connecting with others, practicing radical acceptance, getting enough sleep and finding ways to create joy and satisfaction are a few of the ways to enhance your overall mental health. Like your overall wellness, maintaining your mental health is a journey, there’s no one right or wrong way that works for everyone. And if you find yourself in a low, you can take a mental health test to assess where you are and what you might need.
In the fourth installment of our Centric Commemorates series, my colleagues Timothy Fox and Tracy Dixon share their perspectives on Mental Health Awareness Month.
— Introduction by Emily Dengler-King
For the Parents of Kids with Mental Illness
“Resilience” is a hot word these days, but parents of children suffering from severe mental illness can “resilience” many people right into the ground.
Countless ER trips? Been there, done that. Traveling hundreds of miles to far-away treatment centers? Check. Stitches? Dozens of them. Suicide attempts? Yep.
But the hardest part of parenting a teenager with severe anxiety, depression, anorexia and bulimia — just a girl when her odyssey started nearly a decade ago — is the loneliness.
If your child has a different type of medical condition, they are instantly surrounded, as they should be, by a community. Specialists appear from fields you’d never heard of. Family members rally and bring food. Friends organize prayer circles.
But when your child has a mental illness, people seem to scatter. Specialists are few and far between, if they even exist. Friends, and sometimes even family, grow distant, afraid of saying “the wrong thing.”
As the years go by, you begin to question the concept of “mental” health itself. The idea is right — to make the connection between mind and body — but when what happens in your child’s brain threatens her very existence, it starts to feel like a false distinction.
But you persevere, because you have to. You forgive, because you have to. You wear your scars like she wears hers, as badges of acceptance, if not honor.
And you do what you can do — you put words into the world, hoping they land on someone who says, “You, too?” so their loneliness can start to fade.
–Tim Fox, Content Specialist, National Marketing
Introducing the National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI
As we continue further into Mental Health Awareness Month, I’d like to introduce you to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. NAMI is an organization dedicated to providing support for individuals with mental illness. It also provides resources and encouragement for those with friends and family that suffer from mental illness. I am proud to be a board member of this impactful organization.
The American Psychological Association (APA) completed a survey in March 2021 on how Americans have coped with the stress of the ongoing pandemic. According to the APA’s CEO, Arthur C. Evans Jr, Ph.D., the stress of the pandemic “reveals a secondary crisis that is likely to have persistent, serious mental and physical health consequences for years to come.”
Nationally, over 20 percent of adults will experience mental illness with 1 in 20 experiencing a serious mental illness. Nearly 45 percent of LGBTQ adults will experience mental illness annually. Even youth in the 6 to 17-year-old age group have a 17 percent chance of experiencing a mental health disorder.
These numbers are pervasive, affecting all of us either directly or through someone we know and love. NAMI wants to ensure that every person knows, “You are not alone.” The organization prioritizes mental health and acknowledges that it’s okay to not always be okay.
There are approximately 650 local chapters of NAMI providing local helplines and text assistance to those navigating the extreme challenges of mental illness including the co-occurring difficulties of substance abuse. Chapters additionally provide support groups and classes along with presentations to communities, organizations, and schools.
NAMI relies completely on donations, with local walks serving as the primary source of income. NAMI provides all programs and services at no cost, and it heavily focuses on reducing the stigma associated with mental illness.
NAMI challenges people to pledge to end stigma and create hope for those struggling with mental illness. It includes three steps to be StigmaFree:
- Educate Yourself and Others
- See the Person, Not the Condition
- Take Action.
Will you Take the Pledge?
—Tracy Dixon, Senior Project and Resource Manager, Miami
Through these stories, we’ll seek to learn, understand, and empathize. We’ll celebrate our differences and realize that though we have varied backgrounds and perspectives, we are one team.