Mental health used to be a taboo topic. Ten or twenty years ago, discussing depression was very hush-hush. Conversing about suicidal ideation or anxiety was frowned upon or ignored entirely. As our society has evolved and molded into a new era, mental health has become an increasingly more normal topic to talk about. People no longer shy away from friends who share their feelings of sadness, but they are open and accepting of their friend’s internal conflict. However, there is still a long way to go with the stigma surrounding mental health. Knowledge can be used to your advantage; understanding mental health disorders can help you advocate for mental health in your community.
Mental health advocates are heroes — individuals who do not wear capes but work tirelessly every day to share their stories and help those struggling. They take risks and show their vulnerability by telling their truth in hopes of encouraging someone else. Whether through a blog, social media, a book, or a speaking engagement, these advocates stand up for others who do not have a voice. They remind us that we are not alone in our struggles. They remind us that we are not at fault. They remind us that there is light, healing, and hope throughout this journey. They shatter stereotypes and stigma associated with mental illness.
We can begin advocating for mental health by starting locally. Volunteering is a great way to offer your knowledge and compassion. You can volunteer for a local mental health organization. You can even attend an awareness walk or other event benefiting the mental health movement. Writing letters to senators, governors, or mayors might encourage your local politicians to prioritize mental health. We can also gently correct those who use stigmatizing language or jokes at the expense of people experiencing mental illness.
Spiritually advocating for mental health is one of the most frequently used ways to support the community. This involves attending a church and participating in small groups or “life groups.” The church is a great place to pray for others while also having the social support of friends and family. Many churches take prayer requests and are open about fighting what they call mental warfare or mental illness.
Advocating within the home is essential for cultivating a healthy home environment. Raising children is a big task, and you want your children to feel comfortable talking about mental health. When we teach our kids about eating their greens and exercising, we should also include a mental health check-in. Doing this helps children learn to observe how they are feeling by putting it into words. If you struggle with a mental illness, it would be wise to inform your children about it to help them understand the symptoms you are experiencing. This will also help to form empathy and awareness for others’ emotions.
Online platforms — like Instagram, Facebook, or Tik Tok — can be an important place to advocate for mental health. Many people see social media as a place to one-up one another with selfies and pictures of the fun activities that they are doing. However, social media is also the perfect place to be open and expressive about mental health. While using social media for pictures of family and friends is the exact purpose of the app, we can incorporate mental health advocacy as a component. We can add posts that describe destressing techniques or suicide hotlines. We might even mention that if getting out of bed is the only thing you have done today, then you are doing great! The little comments can be the one thing that is keeping someone going. Advocating online is a special way to love people from a distance. You might start receiving messages saying how much you've helped someone that desperately needed it. Our online presence can be a positive platform centered around uplifting others and letting people know that they are not alone.
If we want to be advocates for those struggling with their mental health, we must first learn to be advocates for ourselves. This means being true to ourselves, loving ourselves, and honoring ourselves, regardless of what our struggles are. We need to practice what we preach. Practice deep breathing, self-affirmations, exercising, and healthy eating. You might even consider therapy if you aren't already seeing a counselor.
In 2021, mental health has become a popular, pressing topic. Mental wellness and mental illness no longer live in the shadows but are prevalent in ourselves and our communities. We cannot afford to sit complacently while our neighbors are struggling with suicidal ideation or crippling anxiety. There are ways to support others and guide them towards a healthier life. As advocates for mental health in our communities, it is essential to talk about it without singling people out. It is time to include everyone and lift others as much as possible. SokyaHealth is a proud advocate for mental health. We treat each of our clients with a therapeutic framework of care and respect. We are a holistic mental health service provider that has helped thousands of individuals and families of all ages. If you or a loved one is seeking support for mental health services, we are excited to facilitate a unique journey towards healing. For more information, contact SokyaHealth at 866-932-1767.