Mental Health Month 2016–Raise Your Banner

Welcome back from hiatus, everyone. Thanks for hanging with me while I took a much needed break.

I planned my return in May for one very important reason–Mental Health Month. 1 in 5 people suffer from mental illness, yet it still carries such an enormous stigma with it. Every year NAMI and other organizations ban together to fight this stigma by raising awareness in the month of May.

“Depressed people cannot lead a revolution because depressed people can barely manage to get out of bed and put on their shoes and socks.”

–Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon

Solomon’s idea is understandable, but I disagree with him. Our revolution may not be the loudest. We may not organize fun colored relays or big, loud charity auctions. Those things just take too many spoons (I’ll be talking more in another post). What we can do, though, is fly our banner high. We can share our stories–whether just to our friends and family, or to those in our immediate social media circle, or to EVERYONE on our blogs or by writing a book or on YouTube. The possibilities are completely up to your comfort level.

But the important thing is that we start talking. ONE in FIVE people. Think about it. You know that ridiculous saying, “Well, there’s one in every family,” meant to make fun of the crazy, off-the-wall person that no one understands? Maybe if we took a little bit of time to explain mental illness, we will stop calling him “crazy,” and start embracing his differences and get him help when he needs it.

Mental ill people aren’t usually terrible people. We just need a different kind of love than “normal” people. We need a little more patience, a little more understanding. We are sick. It’s time we help people understand that. But it’s going to take every single one of us working together to do it.

So this month I challenge you.

  1. First and foremost, educate yourself so you can educate others. There is going to be so much discussion this month. Follow the hashtags #IAmStigmaFree and #MentalHealthMonth. I have set a goal to read an article or watch a video every single day–I’m going to be posting a LOT on here, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. I hope you’ll follow along with me.
  2. Share your stories. It is ok to start small, if that is all you are comfortable with. Talk with your parents, your significant other, your friends. Maybe call a therapist if that is what you need to do. If you’ve been in this world for awhile, get a little bigger. Join the discussions. Write a blog post, make a YouTube video. Join the movement to end the stigma.
  3. Take care of yourself. There is going to be some triggering stuff out there, so know your limit. Log off when you have to, blacklist the stuff you need to stay away from. We certainly don’t want to hurt anyone. And if you’re not ready, then you’re not ready. And that’s ok too. There are others who are speaking out this year who may not be able to do so next year. Mental illness comes in waves. It’s a war. This May is only one battle.

I’ll leave you with one last quote from Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy, which I’ll be reviewing next week.

“Sometimes I wonder if the best thing to do is just be quiet and stop waving the banner of ‘fucked up and proud of it,’ but I don’t think I’ll put down this banner until someone takes it away from me.

Because quitting might be easier, but it wouldn’t be better.”

Get out there and wave your banner, be it small and quiet,  or big, red, and loud. JUST DON’T QUIT.

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