AwareNow: Issue 16: The Mayday Edition

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Page 114

“…talking about mental health today is a movement.”

I believe the mental health awareness community has a major marketing and education problem. One of the biggest factors keeping the general public from understanding the importance of mental health concerns how we educate them. All the national awareness organizations promote the same statistic, that 1 in 5 adults in Americans will experience a diagnosable mental illness in a given year. What these groups forget to promote - is that 5 out of 5 of us have mental health. By forgetting this they discount the connection we all have with anyone who has suffered a mental illness or is suffering today.

Whenever I speak about mental health to any size group, I always try to show the audience they are in a safe place to have this discussion. I ask them to raise their hand if - they, someone in their family, or one of their closest 4 to 5 friends has ever been impacted by mental illness, suicide, or addiction. Each time I ask this question almost every single person in the room raises their hand. This allows the audience to see they are surrounded by people with a shared experience and makes it easier for a candid conversation about mental health to take place.

The point I’m trying to make with this exercise is, if an overwhelming majority of us know someone who has struggled or we have been impacted ourselves, then how come we are not promoting the urgency of this issue in way that makes more sense and gets people’s attention.

Everyone should have the ability and opportunity to share their voice. Like many, I struggled for years to express the heartbreak I felt over how addiction and mental illness had impacted my family and close friends. But in the wake of that pain has come purpose and a willingness to be vocal, share my story, and continue to encourage others to do the same. Silence is not an option. Everyone deserves to have their voice heard.

Mental health needs more advocates, activists, and champions. Talking about mental health today isn’t just a moment, talking about mental health today is a movement.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Please take this time to share resources and inspirational stories of ‘lived experience’ and recovery – you never know who it may help, motivate, inspire, or even save.

I would like to take the opportunity to express my gratitude to all the mental health professionals, care givers, and advocates out there, who every day support and champion the millions of people suffering from mental illness. Your efforts, work ethic, and kindness are seldom recognized, but to so many of us who suffer - you are our heroes!

To all of the individuals and families who were able to navigate the tragedy of loss, and turned that sadness into purpose and action: Your VOICE changes the discussion around mental health and addiction. Your EFFORTS help eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness and recovery; and Your ACTIONS save lives every day.

I don’t think people fully realize how much effort, strength, and courage it takes to pull yourself out of a dark place mentally. To anyone struggling right now with their recovery, mental illness, or profound grief and loss – you are brave, you are strong, and you will get through this. Most importantly always remember - you are not alone. ∎

Ian Adair is a nonprofit industry influencer, TEDx speaker, and recognized expert in leadership, fundraising, and nonprofit management. He is the author of: Stronger Than Stigma, A Call To Action: Stories of Grief, Loss, and Inspiration! Ian is the Executive Director of the Gracepoint Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Gracepoint, which impacts the lives of more than 30,000 individuals in our community each year, seeking mental health, medical, and addiction services.

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