For those who are more familiar with Mental Health Awareness Month, this month can be a good time to reflect, learn, and grow as mental health advocates. However, it’s also a time to share with others, especially in the ways that we discuss mental health and how exactly awareness is spread. If you’re just getting started in your journey as a mental health advocate (which anyone can be!), I put together five helpful tips and reminders that can help you spread mental health awareness and start having those important conversations.
Everyone has mental health
During my Instagram Live last week for Mental Health Awareness Month, I talked about the difference between mental illness and mental health. There’s an assumption that the only people who should be concerned about mental health are people who have experienced mental illness, and that’s simply not true. Each one of us has our own mental health, and we have to make sure we’re keeping track of our mental health and wellness. That also means that since everyone has mental health, anyone can talk about it! Don’t let someone think that mental health is only for certain folks – we can all talk about it!
Awareness can happen outside of awareness months
There are many good reasons for why awareness months exist. In addition to raising awareness (of course!), they put a spotlight on specific people and issues, oftentimes providing voices for marginalized groups of people. But what do we do once the month is over? For many, it flies off their radar until that month rolls around again next year. Rather than taking one month out of the year to make mental health a thing, use this month to try and start conversations that can be had year-round. For more tips, check out this blog post I wrote a few years ago about this same topic!
It’s okay to ask questions
This is something I forget often, and it’s good to be reminded throughout our mental health journeys. Asking questions is one of the most direct ways to get what we need, and since we’re all different, getting what we need varies for different people. The stigma discourages people into not asking questions about mental health, but here’s the honest truth: no one is ever going to know everything about mental health. No one! There will always be more questions to ask and more to learn about ourselves, and finding comfort in that fact can go a long way toward building a plan toward mental wellness.
Mental health is a journey
This is another point I touch on often, but it’s one of the most comforting thoughts I’ve had when it comes to mental health. Mental health is a journey; it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It can be complicated, messy, ugly, and sad. It can also be powerful, uplifting, combative, and positive. There will be peaks and valleys, but knowing that it is all part of the journey can provide comfort in those times when you feel like giving up.
You are not alone
Any discussion about mental health should include this reminder. It might not sound like much, but for people who have felt alone, truly alone, because of mental illness or mental health struggles, it can mean everything. Sometimes it feels like constant work to remind yourself that you’re not alone, but it’s worth it. Mental health impacts everyone – even though we’re unique, our experiences can look, feel, and sound so similar. Even though we can feel alone, the mental health community is strong, and we’re always stronger together.