For those of you who don’t know, we are currently in the middle of Mental Health Awareness Week. I didn’t find out about this until Sunday night when I was scrolling though Facebook and came across a post explaining this year’s challenge. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has started a social medial campaign in hopes of spreading awareness and understanding for people living with a mental health condition.
The #IAmStigmaFree campaign challenges people to
(1) “Learn about mental health”
(2) “See the person not the illness”
(3) “Take action”
I knew right away that I had to join the conversation, I just wasn’t sure how. Part of my concern in approaching this topic is the fact that I have never been diagnosed with a mental health condition. So, I don’t know where my story fits in the dialogue. In the past, I have faced bouts of depression and anxiety (I think everyone does). My own struggles with these conditions have been difficult, but, thankfully, not extreme.
My goal in speaking out now is to show support to those facing these conditions, especially in their most severe forms.
You are not alone. Please do not give up.
In an attempt to honor the #IAmStigmaFree challenge, I brought up the topic of mental health in my classroom. On Monday morning, I asked my students to journal about what they know about mental health. They were (it makes me sad to say) at a loss for words about what mental health even is. I was at a loss for words that they knew so little about it (almost nothing). I teach part time, so I only have a few students, but only one of them was able to tell me what mental health is.
After showing them the NAMI website (here is the link) and the #IAmStigmaFree campaign, we looked up the definition of “stigma” so they would have a better understanding of what I was talking about. A basic Google search provided this definition: “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.”
My student’s lack of awareness brought home the fact that there is still a lot of stigma surrounding the issue of mental health. This was further emphasized for me when I hardly saw any references to Mental Health Awareness Week on social medial or in the news. (I’ve seen a little more since first writing this, but not much.)
People just don’t talk about it. I suppose it makes us uncomfortable. But mental health is NOT something to be ashamed of, it is NOT a “mark of disgrace.”
So, are you willing to take the challenge? Are you willing to be stigma free?