Every great cause deserves at least its own month. And so it is with mental health awareness. The emotional and mental disorders, with their stigma-driven poor self-perception and isolation, can make life lonely and hard. That’s why “You Are Not Alone” is an uplifting message for National Mental Health Awareness Month, 2021…
The emotional and mental disorders and I have been pals for some fifty years. I know stigma, poor self-perception, and isolation well. I’ll admit I’m not much of a joiner. But when it comes to mental health awareness, I need to expand my boundaries.
National Mental Health Awareness Month
May has been tagged as Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States since 1949, when it was founded by what’s now known as Mental Health America. As it was all those years ago, the goal is to raise awareness and educate the public about the emotional and mental disorders, thereby reducing stigma.
What more righteous cause could there be?
It’s my hope that anyone in any way involved with the emotional and mental disorders recognizes National Mental Health Awareness Month. However, it’s not just about recognition, it’s about action – spreading the word, advocacy, and lending a hand.
You know, I’ve always found it frustrating that mental health awareness seems to take a back seat to other health – yes, medical – conditions. I mean, when will we see our brand on the uniforms of professional athletes? Have I missed something?
Prepping for this piece, I reviewed Forbes’ “America’s Top Charities 2020.” Out of the one hundred listed, there are those dedicated to battling cancer, breast cancer, leukemia and lymphoma, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, kidney disease, type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis. That’s nine medical maladies.
Out of all the variations of the emotional and mental disorders – legit medical conditions, all – there were only two organizations on the list: Easterseals and The Arc.
I don’t know, is that yet another manifestation of stigma? Are the emotional and mental disorders, well, uncool?
Mental health stigma
This past March I posted an article dedicated to mental health stigma. I’d like to share a portion of it with you…
Perhaps like you, I live with disease that affects how I receive, interpret, and react to my world – myself. Instead of using the stigma-perpetuating term “mental illness,” I’ve come up with emotional/mental disease (EMD). And that’s no different than having, say, heart or kidney disease. After all, we have but one body, without above or below the neck distinction.
Time was, going public with EMD would just about end whatever hope we had of living a judgment-free and peaceful life. Others knowing our circumstances would only exacerbate the problems we were already trying to manage.
Fortunately, things are a little better here in the early 21st century; however, society still has a long way to go regarding its perception and treatment of those living with EMD.
As prevalent as EMD is, many enduring it don’t seek treatment. And that’s because of roadblocks such as lack of education and personal insight, inadequate or non-existent health insurance, and, of course, stigma.
Something is very wrong with this picture.
If you’re struggling with EMD, I encourage you to hold your head high. You have nothing about which to be ashamed or embarrassed. Indeed, your self-candor and courage are admirable.
Please join me in declaring it’s okay to have EMD. Because the only way society is going to completely embrace us is if we step forward together and demand to be counted – and respected.
As far as we’ve come, a shiny badge of disgrace continues to be pinned upon many living with EMD. As a result, we’re too often improperly scrutinized and unfairly treated at the workplace and school, regarding insurance, and in other essential arenas of life functioning. Yes, stigma is still alive and well.
This has to change.
I have emotional/mental disease. And my circumstances deserve the same respect, freedom from judgment, and treatment opportunities afforded other health situations.
You are not alone
Yes, mental health awareness deserves at least its own month. I’d say it merits emphasis 365 days a year. All of the stigma, poor self-perception, and isolation that accompany the emotional and mental disorders: it’s tiring, lonely – hard.
But take heart, my journey companions, each of us can carry the day. I, for one, will never give in, nor will I lose hope.
Never forget, you are not alone.
For helpful, perhaps lifesaving, resource information, here are just three of the numerous safe places to turn to: Mental Health America, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), MentalHealth.gov
Oh, speaking of mental health awareness: Check-out the hundreds of Chipur mood and anxiety disorder targeted titles.