This Mental Health Awareness Month, I'm reminded of Simone Biles, who sparked an international discussion on mental health when she decided to take a break from gymnastics in the middle of the Olympic Games last summer. She was largely celebrated for her bravery in acknowledging that she needed mental rest, but she also faced some backlash from critics who believed she should have kept quiet and just competed anyway. The controversy surrounding her decision illuminated the lingering stigma surrounding mental illness and how far we have to go to normalize mental health.
So, what can you do to help end the stigma?
Educate yourself. Separate fact from fiction and learn about the signs and symptoms of mental illness. The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a great resource.
Take care of yourself. Do you feel anxious, nervous, stressed or depressed? It's okay; we've all been there at some point in our lives. Try coping techniques like walking, journaling and meditation. If you're still feeling overwhelmed or having harmful thoughts, seek professional help.
Talk openly and honestly about mental health. So many of us are afraid to talk about our mental health issues because we worry that others will think we're "crazy." Talking about our own experiences with mental illness will encourage others to speak up as well.
Listen to others. Keep an open mind and listen without judgement when others come to you with their mental health concerns. See the person, not the condition. Offer support when you can. This could include going for a walk together or helping them find a therapist.
Get involved. Join the movement to normalize mental health. You could advocate for mental health days at work or write to government leaders to get mental health initiatives on their agendas. The NAMI Action Center is a great resource for ways to get involved on the state and federal levels.