Five Easy Ways to Be an Ally During Mental Health Awareness Month
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness, fighting the stigma, and encouraging support for individuals living with mental disorders. 1 in 5 Americans live with a mental illness. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for the various challenges people face daily. However, there are many ways a community can support its most vulnerable neighbors.
You don’t have to be a medically trained professional to be a mental health ally and offer your support. Below are five easy ways to be an ally during Mental Health Awareness Month.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to be an ally during Mental Health Awareness Month is by learning new and valuable information about mental health. If you’re overwhelmed by the amount of information online, try to narrow your focus. Discover some common ways mental health challenges show up in children, adults, and maybe even in close family and friends. These lessons and resources can help you identify peers who might be struggling in silence.
Check-in on a friend
When was the last time you checked in on your friends? There’s never a wrong time to do it, but May is the perfect excuse to check in on them and their mental health. Many of us, especially women, tend to brush off vulnerable questions by saying we’re fine, so try to ask open-ended questions that can lead to deeper and more meaningful conversations. Sometimes, our strongest friends are the ones who need us the most. Make sure to check in on them, too.
Share your story
Whether you’ve experienced mental health issues yourself or know of anyone that has, those personal stories are one of the best ways to raise awareness for mental health. You never know whose life that single story can impact, so let go of the fear and lean into your influence. You can share your story in person with a small group of friends or online for countless individuals to consume. Either way, you can feel confident your truth will transform lives.
The #breakthestigma hashtag has been used over 800,000 times on Instagram. A testament to the power of our collective voice and advocacy.
Listen with empathy
Being a mental health ally doesn’t require you to sacrifice your time or stretch yourself thin. Sometimes, simply listening to someone in need is more than enough. Give that individual some of your undivided attention, and be compassionate as they share their most vulnerable feelings. You might not understand what they’re going through. Listen anyway. Your effort, energy, and ears are sometimes all a person needs to get through their latest challenge.
Get Mental Health First Aid Training
If you’re an overachiever and would like to go above and beyond as a mental health ally, receiving Mental Health First Aid training might be the for you. Mental Health First Aid is a course that teaches everyday people how to identify and respond to signs of mental illness and other disorders. Like getting CPR certified in case of a drowning or heart attack, being MHFA trained can help you respond to a mental health crisis. To learn more and get trained, visit www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org.