The Mental Health Foundation‘s Mental Health Awareness Week is here (May 18th-24th), and the theme this year is kindness. That means showing kindness both to others and to yourself. But what are you supposed to do during Mental Health Awareness Week, and how can you join in on the message of spreading kindness? We found five great ways to observe this week in a way that will help both you and your community.
1. Start Conversations About Mental Wellness
If your friend or family member is going through a mental health struggle, you want them to know that you’re someone they can talk to. And the best way to do that is to start conversations about supporting individuals with mental health struggles. For example, you could mention to your sister that you know somebody struggling with depression and voice your support for that person. This way, if your sister ever faces a mental health issue, she’ll remember that you are someone she can confide in for support.
Or if you have mental health struggles yourself, you could start by talking to a trusted friend about what you’re feeling. Individuals with mental health issues live in every community, and by coming forward with your story, you can help create a culture of honesty and acceptance that will help others in your same situation.
2. Learn About Mental-Health-Affirming Language
Sometimes, without meaning to, we can use language that harms individuals with mental illnesses. That’s nothing to feel ashamed about, but it does create an opportunity to learn more about language that supports people with mental health. Read below for some examples of easy changes we can all make to our everyday language:
- Instead of saying, “That’s crazy” or “She’s nuts,” try saying, “That’s really bizarre” or “She’s pretty eccentric.”
- Instead of saying, “She’s schizophrenic” or “He’s bipolar,” you could say “She has schizophrenia” or “He has bipolar disorder.”
It’s important to remember that language is always evolving. As time goes on, the words that people like to use often change. Using outdated language is an honest mistake that we all make, but learning new ways to update our speech is a way that everyone can show respect for people with mental health conditions. Shaming people over language is counterproductive, but if you see any instances of harmful language, use them as learning opportunities to have open, honest conversations about mental health.
3. Help Normalize Mental Health Treatment
Every year, millions of Americans receive mental health treatment from inpatient care to weekly therapist visits. If you have ever received mental health treatment, make casual remarks about seeing a psychiatrist or other forms of receiving mental health care. When people start to see mental health visits as similar to visits to a doctor’s office, it will become much easier for people in need to get the help that they deserve.
Take your first step towards recovery.
If you haven’t personally been treated for a mental health condition, try voicing support for your loved ones who have. You could tell your friend that you admire how he takes care of himself by seeing a counselor. The important thing is to spread the message that mental health care is a completely normal part of how people take care of themselves.
4. Demonstrate Compassion for People with Mental Illnesses
The reason that so many people feel compelled to hide mental illness is that individuals with mental health conditions are often ostracized or mocked by their peers. So one of the best ways that you can help defeat mental health stigma is by supporting people you know who openly have mental health conditions. If your friend with depression feels unwanted, invite them on your next outing and remind them that you’re glad to have them around. Or if you’re at a party and your friend with an anxiety disorder needs to get away from the crowd, offer to take a breather with them outside.
It doesn’t take much to show compassion for people living with mental health conditions. But by taking these small actions, you can really make a difference in how people feel included and supported in their communities.
5. Give Yourself a Break
Oftentimes, mental illness goes untreated because people don’t even realize that they’re dealing with symptoms. Stress, sadness, and feelings of inadequacy can all build up until an individual enters a mental health crisis. Situations like these can be dangerous, so it’s best if you regularly take a step back and evaluate how you’re feeling.
If you ever feel like you need mental health treatment, the best thing you can do is to look into your local treatment options. At The Blackberry Center, we offer evidence-based mental health treatments at our treatment center in St. Cloud, Florida. If you have any questions about us or our services, call our admissions specialists at 1-888-512-9802 or fill out an online contact form. Looking out for the mental wellness of others is a great way to show kindness, but an even better way is to take care of yourself and show that there is no shame in getting help when you need it.