1 in 5 young people have, or will have a serious mental illness. Yet, many youth experiencing a mental health challenge feel like they do not have anyone to talk to, that no one understands them, and feel there is nowhere to turn to get help. Only 20% of young people with mental health challenges receive care. In fact, youth wait on average 8-10 years between the onset of their symptoms and seeking help.

We all know that growing up is hard enough. Now, add the unmet mental health needs into the mix, and it can feel impossible for many of them. Not just for young people, but also for their parents, siblings, friends, and whole communities.

The news is full of stories of youth with untreated mental illness who may fail in school, get arrested, become homeless, or even take their own lives. When you read those stories you may feel overwhelmed and ask yourself, “What can one person do to help?”

You can do a lot to help. Here are 4 ways you can help this month during Mental Health Awareness Month:

  1. Talk to your friends and family about mental health. Let the people you care about know that you are willing to listen if they are struggling. Learn how to facilitate this conversation and learn about the signs and symptoms of mental illness by visiting the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) at www.nami.org.
  2. Share your own story. Sharing one’s mental health struggles can be one of the most difficult things a person can do. But sharing stories of treatment or the emotions you’re currently dealing with can be helpful for others to know they are not alone. You can share or read others stories at www.ok2talk.org.   
  3. Join the conversations.  Between blog post, Twitter hashtags, Facebook posts, and even Instagram, the discussion spreads across the majority of large social media platforms. Mental health organizations have even taken to these platforms with strategically placed hashtags, including: #MHM2018, #mentalhealth, #MentalHealthAwareness, and #endthestigma.
  4. Break the stigma. Historically there has been a stigma placed on so many mental illnesses. People may avoid treatment to avoid being labeled as “crazy” or “weak.” Understanding how the language we use can shape the perception of mental illness is a  good first step in overcoming the stigma.

Mental Health Awareness Month is an opportunity to take action, and become inspired, informed and involved to help others. Together, we aim to provide support, advocate for equal care, and fight stigma. Stigma is a sign or sense of disgrace that sets someone apart from others. Navigating life with a mental health condition can be tough, and the isolation and blame that is often encouraged by stigma can create huge challenges moving forward in one’s recovery journey. For additional information about Mental Health Month and to access resources, visit: www.nami.org.

Submitted by: Jessica Minor, St. Croix Regional Medical Center Marketing Manager

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