By AUDRIE FORD
One in five Americans will be affected by a mental condition during their lifetime, according to research by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots mental-health organization.
Sixty-seven years ago, the nonprofit Mental Health America set May aside as Mental Health Month. While much has changed in the past six decades regarding mental health treatment in America, there is still work to be done. The group said that last year its educational materials were seen and used by 19 million people.
In Southern Arizona, organizations participating in Mental Health Month include the local chapter of NAMI and Interfaith Community Services.
NAMI Southern Arizona has been around since 1983, and offers services to both Spanish and English speakers. It devotes its efforts to educating, advocating and providing support to all those affected by mental illness.
Interfaith Community Services has helped Pima County residents of many different faiths since 1985. According to ICS, the organization provides more than 73,000 services to over 36,500 people every year.
With the organizations working in Southern Arizona, there are many ways to get involved in Mental Health Month.
NAMI offers pre-made, easy-to-use resources that emphasize community involvement and openness among friends, families and those with a mental health condition.
Its stigma-free pledge is perhaps one of the simplest ways to start a conversation about mental health. The pledge involves three steps that anyone from any walk of life can take to help a cause that impacts millions of Americans.
Step 1. Educate yourself and others.
Mental health advocates emphasize that stigmatization is still a serious issue for the community. Learning that mental health conditions are not derived from weakness, poor character or bad upbringing is an important step for everyone to take.
Tearing down harmful stereotypes about those with mental health conditions is also critical to bringing mental health care into the modern era.
Step 2. See the person, not the illness.
The Mental Illness Research Association estimated that 22 percent of the population has a mental health condition.
Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that this statistic has millions of unique faces with unique stories. Their life story does not end with a diagnosis.
Step 3. Take action on mental health issues.
According to NAMI, 70 to 90 percent of those with a mental health challenge who sought treatment saw improvement in their quality of life.
It is important to remember that mental health crosses party lines, religious affiliations and economic status.
In order to truly make a difference, everyone must do their part to better the lives of those with a mental health condition in the most compassionate way they can.
Get involved in Mental Health Month, but don’t let the work stop at the end of May.Turn Southern Arizona into an opportunity hotspot for help, healing and profound respect for fellow human beings.