Show Your Support this Mental Health Awareness Month
May is a marvelous month – April showers have come and gone, bringing beautiful May flowers, mothers enjoy their annual celebrations of gratitude, and summer break is right around the corner for teens. While May brings a lot of joy, it also gives us space to discuss a very important topic: mental health. This May, join us in recognizing Mental Health Awareness Month.
Oxford Dictionaries defines mental health as “a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being.” It’s basically a measure of how well we are treating our bodies and our minds. Despite our best efforts, treating ourselves with care can be challenging at times. It’s also challenging to talk about. Despite overwhelming statistics showing the decline in mental health among all Americans, and particularly among American teenagers, most hesitate to voice their struggles.
Often, any hesitation to discuss mental health is rooted in stigma. Stigma shows itself in all the negative attitudes and behaviors we apply to certain people, characteristics, or circumstances. One common example is when people assume those who struggle with mental health are “dangerous” or “unstable” rather than being temporarily unwell. Stigma is built over many years of conditioning, often by parents, teachers, or adults who have a strong influence on young, impressionable minds. We must be especially careful about how we speak in front of teenagers as deeply rooted stigmas can take years – decades even – to unlearn. Acknowledging, addressing, and reversing these stigmas is how we will address the mental health crisis in America – but we need your help.
No matter what mental health battle someone is fighting – depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, etc. – no one wants to fight it alone. In fact, loneliness has a direct effect on mental health, almost always worsening cases. “Additionally, those with trauma symptoms and/or paranoia and distrust of others struggle significantly with feeling lonely.” said Paraskevi Noulas, PsyD, a psychologist at NYU Langone Health. “In a sense, the people who need social support the most are often sadly the ones who struggle the most to find it.”
This Mental Health Awareness Month, we must all make it our mission to not only raise awareness about the stigmas and stereotypes associated with mental health, but also take the time to be there for our teens who don’t yet have the life experience to know how to cope. When we say “be there” for them, we mean…
- Share Your Story: Sharing your own mental health experiences is a great way to empathize with your teen and let them know you understand what they are going through. You can also use resources like This Is My Brave, a site that compiles thousands of personal stories about mental health and addiction recovery. Listening and reading other people’s stories is one way to help combat loneliness and isolation.
- Volunteer Together: A 2020 study found a direct correlation between volunteerism, happiness, and health. People who volunteered reported feeling physically healthier and more satisfied with their lives than people who didn’t volunteer. Additionally, those who volunteered at least once a month reported better mental health than those who did not. Suggesting that your teen volunteers at a local homeless shelter or soup kitchen can be a good way to help your teen improve their mental wellness. You could even suggest that you volunteer together!
- Get Certified in Mental Health Aid: It can be hard to tell when someone is struggling. It’s especially hard to gauge a teenager’s mental health given all the typical stress of adolescence. There are lots of digital platforms to help train you to recognize when someone is struggling with their mental health. Jack.org, the Born This Way Foundation, and the Be There Certificate all offer digital certifications that enable you to support someone else’s slipping mental health without sacrificing your own.
- Suggest Doing Nothing: How To Do Nothing was a New Zealand public service campaign dedicated to helping young people help other young people with mental health. Watch these videos to see how doing nothing might be exactly what your teen needs, despite how counterproductive that sounds.
Mental health should be addressed every month. But this May, take some time out of your Spring schedule to check in on your teen and others you love. You never know when someone has been suffering in silence. Regardless of the circumstance, reaching out to offer support is almost always the right choice.
Increased awareness can only mean increased prevention. Join us in the fight against teen cough medicine abuse by exploring and sharing our free resources.