Mental health issues can affect anybody. There are no rules about spreading mental illness awareness – it could happen to you, to a friend of yours, or to a family member.
Unfortunately, despite ongoing research and advancements in the field of mental health issues and treatment, many people have misunderstandings or incorrect assumptions about mental health issues.
Raising awareness about mental illness is important because it results in a better understanding of mental health issues, and that means better treatment and more accessibility for people dealing with mental health problems. Anyone can help raise awareness of mental health issues if they’re interested in doing so.
Take a look at some actionable steps that you can take to raise mental illness awareness in your community.
1. Learn the Signs and Symptoms
Frequently, signs of mental illness are overlooked or dismissed because the people in the best position to see the symptoms – friends and family members – don’t realize that their loved ones are exhibiting symptoms in the first place.
You don’t have to go to medical school and learn all of the symptoms of every possible mental illness, but it’s easy enough to familiarize yourself with signs of some of the more common mental illnesses, like depression or anxiety, or to look up behaviors that worry you if someone you care about is demonstrating them.
When someone takes the time to learn about the warning signs and look into ways that they can help a person displaying those warning signs, they increase the chance that the person with mental illness will receive the care and help that they need.
Like anyone with an illness, people who suffer from a mental illness sometimes need advocates to help ensure that they receive good care, and you can be an advocate for someone in your life.
If you’re somebody who has experienced or is experiencing mental health issues yourself, you can help others by being open about your own experiences as far as you’re able to do so.
Of course, you don’t have to disclose your mental health status to anyone if you’re not comfortable doing so.
But, hearing that other people have been through the same or similar experiences can be comforting to those who have mental health problems of their own, and people who have never experienced mental health problems themselves can benefit from learning about the experiences of someone who they already know.
3. Promote Kind Language
A simple but effective way to promote mental illness awareness is to encourage others around you to use kindness in their language concerning mental illness and people who suffer from mental illness.
You can do this by speaking up when those around you make unkind jokes or comments about mentally ill people or express unfounded and unkind assumptions about mental illness. You don’t need to be confrontational; you can just gently ask that others consider the impact that their words may have on those around them.
Ask your friends and loved ones to remember that people who have mental illnesses are still people, first and foremost, and that mental illness is just as real as a physical illness like cancer or diabetes.
And just as with physical illnesses, people who have mental illnesses don’t ask to be sick or deserve to be sick – they deserve compassion and treatment.
4. Help Organize Mental Health Screenings
Mental health screenings can be standalone events or part of other events, like community health fairs. Coordinate with local mental health care providers and advocates to help organize and promote mental health screenings in your community.
The more access that people have to mental health evaluations, the more likely they are to be diagnosed and treated when they’re suffering from mental illnesses. Making it a priority to promote mental health screenings in your area can help ensure that someone gets the treatment they needed when they might not have otherwise.
Your efforts could make a huge difference in someone’s life.
5. Take Part in Advocacy Efforts
Take the time to look into how your government is addressing mental health issues and the concerns of patients and advocates.
Do you think that the government is doing enough to ensure that mental health care is available and accessible to those who need it? If not, what do you think that your federal, state, and local government officials could be doing to make a difference?
Consider mental health issues when you’re deciding who to vote for. Does your candidate highlight mental health issues in their platform?:
- Write letters or make phone calls to your elected officials – whether you voted for them or not.
- Asking them to create, sponsor, or support initiatives and legislation that will improve and expand mental health access and treatment.
- Find mental health advocacy groups in your area and participate in local activism efforts.
There are many things that you can do to make a direct difference in the lives of people suffering from mental illness. Volunteering your time or talents is an excellent way to make an important impact in your own community.
You may be able to help by volunteering to do something to raise money for local mental health organizations, such as working at a fundraiser, making something to be sold for the purpose of raising funds, like crafts or baked goods, or by canvassing or making phone calls for donations.
Or you may decide to volunteer by working directly with people who have mental illnesses – there may be local mental health hospitals or facilities that could use volunteers, particularly if you have medical skills or other special training that could be useful in that type of setting.
Whether or not you’ve been personally affected by mental illness, your decision to promote awareness is an important one.
You’ll be doing your part to make your community and the world at large a better and safer place for people who suffer from mental illnesses.