Today is #BellLetsTalk Day, a day to raise awareness about mental health and the importance of talking about it. Like many other designated days, weeks or months (Pink Shirt Day, Black History Month, Earth Day, Indigenous Rights Day) this day is a kickstarter to talking about mental health. It is a call to action to ignite conversations and impact that continue everyday. It is through continuity that we create impact and change to erase the stigma around mental health and build more compassionate communities.
Sometimes its hard to know how exactly we can help. I’ve been thinking about this a lot and here are five things you can do everyday to support those among us who struggle
1. Educate yourself and others.
Understand what it means when we are talking about “mental health”. 1 in 5 people live with a mental illness, but 5 in 5 people have mental health. Mental health is an umbrella that includes but is not limited to: depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar, schizophrenia, eating disorders and substance abuse. These are all real struggles within “mental health”.
2. Watch your language.
I’ve said it before and I will keep saying it – WORDS MATTER. I feel like sometimes people throw around serious words so carelessly. Saying things like “I’m so OCD” or “you’re such a schiz” or “I’m such an ADD” diminishes the severity of the struggle behind these mental illnesses. I heard a PSA on the radio the other day – a girl with OCD said that there are days that she spends 16 hours caught up in rituals that stop her from doing anything else. This is what OCD looks like. If this does not describe you, don’t say that you’re OCD.
3. Don’t be silent.
If you hear people throwing these words around, say something. You can say “Hey guys, OCD is a real challenge for a lot of people. We shouldn’t joke about it.” If no one says anything to help erase the stigma, nothing will change.
4. Be compassionate.
Having a mental illness isn’t like a cast on your arm, you can’t see it. It’s invisible, but it’s still there. It’s that idea of emotional intelligence, everyone is fighting their own battle, so be compassionate.
Not every broken part of us shows up in the X-Ray. #MentalHealthAwareness
— Shane Koyczan (@Koyczan) January 31, 2018
5. Ask and be there.
If you think someone is struggling, let them know that you are there for them. Let them know you are there to listen without judgment. If they come to you, have an open ear and be there for them. You also have to be able to guide them to help. As an ally, don’t feel like you can be the sole help and support they need. Find the local and national resources with trained professionals. Some incredible organizations are as follows:
Kids Help Phone (talk AND text) – 1-800-668-6868
The Trevor Project (talk AND text) – 1-866-488-7386
National Insitute of Mental Health Information Center – 1-866-615-6464
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
LGBTQ+ Youthline (talk AND text) – 1-800-268-9688
Jack.org – network of youth transforming the way we think about mental health
National Alliance on Mental Illness (USA) – text NAMI to 741-741