To the editor:
As we finally emerge from the cold dark winter our thoughts turn to spring – and green. Not the green from our grass or the leaves on the tree, but to mental health. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and green is the color being used to symbolize awareness.
Mental health is a continuum, from having very good mental health to having a serious mental illness. Good mental health means being able to learn, express a range of emotions, form and maintain good relationships and cope with change and uncertainty.
Like any health care condition, it’s good to identify symptoms early and seek treatment. Mental illnesses disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others, and daily functioning. One in four adults and one in five children live with a mental illness.
Promoting good mental health, learning how to deal with stress can help, but making sure a mental illness is identified and treated early may prevent it from becoming more serious. It is also important to recognize that mental illnesses are treatable medical conditions, and with proper treatment people can and do recover.
Unfortunately, people aren’t comfortable talking about mental health or mental illnesses. There is a cloak of silence around it. During the month of May we encourage people to talk about it. You can help raise awareness by wearing green – paint your nails, wear green clothing, put on a green ribbon – and then when people ask why, share information with them about mental health. You can direct people to the Make It OK campaign or the NAMI Minnesota website to learn more about mental illnesses, how to talk about them and how to request a speaker.
Every time someone talks about mental illnesses we take another brick off that wall of silence. So celebrate May this year by promoting mental health and talking about mental illnesses. It’s OK to talk about it! Help end the silence that discourages people from seeking help.
Executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Minnesota