May is fast approaching. I want you to think about what you and your organization can do to promote awareness of mental health during the month of May. We are usually overloaded with companies asking us to teach Mental Health First Aid certification classes, which makes us very happy. The key to reducing stigma is education and conversation. What else might you consider? Here are a few ideas:
- I suggest that every company review its mental health guidelines in some manner. If you do not have any, it’s time to write some and implement them within your organization. Do your managers know what to do if one of their employees says they are thinking about suicide? Do you have an active shooter protocol? Do you ensure, on a regular basis, that your employees are aware of mental health services that either your company or its insurance provider offer?
- Donate some time to a nonprofit, hospital, or clinic which serves people suffering from mental illness.
- Take a mental health day for yourself or offer one to an employee. Make sure that everyone knows it is imperative to take care of themselves, mentally, not just physically.
- Learn (or teach) a self-help skill which may come in handy in the future to you or someone you know who just might suffer from an anxiety issue in the future. Knowing what helps and how to do it, ahead of time, reduces the amount of time between the time a person realizes they are hurting to the time they can get some relief. Not every skill works for everyone, so get to know what works for you. Personally, I like the deep breathing exercises. Some people prefer meditation or exercise, and others prefer yoga, hypnosis, or just reading books about their issues. What works for you?
- Talk about mental health with people around you. The only way to reduce stigma is to talk about mental illness and keep the conversation going. The less stigma that is attached to mental health, the more people will feel safe enough to ask for help when they need it. In other words, talking about mental health can lead to saving lives.
- Get trained and become aware. Of course, our favorite educational program is Mental Health First Aid. It has evolved into one of our core training programs for a good reason: We talk about mental health before it becomes a crisis, not just after it becomes a crisis. Of course, we are also proponents of other great programs like the suicide prevention programs, ASIST and QPR, and STAR Behavioral Health training (for people who work with veterans of the armed forces). There are more… Get trained.
- Start a wellness program in your school or organization. A simple program does not have to be expensive, and more elaborate ones may be a bit costly. What ever the cost, it is worth it.
- Understand that anyone, anywhere can be suffering from a mental health challenge at any given time and give mental health a priority.
What will you and your organization do to mark Mental Health Awareness Month, the month of May? Think about it and be well!