Hello Tampa Bay! Welcome to a month that is really close to our hearts…May is Mental Health Awareness Month. And while it’s no secret that we’re all about empowering you in your mental health journey and building a stronger local community in the process, this month we really get to shout it from the rooftops. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has declared the focus of 2022’s Mental Health Awareness Month to be “Together for Mental Health,” to acknowledge the power of support and solidarity in our lives.
Because mental health struggles are grounded in our personal experience of them, they can often feel isolating and lonely. It can feel like you’re the only one struggling or seeking answers, and it may feel difficult or impossible to open up to your loved ones about what you’re going through. But you’re truly not alone in this…we mean it! In 2022, 19.86% of the US population, nearly 50 million people, are experiencing mental illness. Further, 7.74% are experiencing substance use disorder. If so many of us are having these experiences, why isn’t everyone talking about it? One word: stigma.
Let’s get clear on what stigma is: “Stigma is when someone, or even you yourself, views a person in a negative way just because they have a mental health condition. Some people describe stigma as a feeling of shame or judgment from someone else. Stigma can even come from an internal place, confusing feeling bad with being bad.”
Stigma can keep us from seeking help, make us feel isolated, and be tied to discrimination in work, school, and social circles. It does not serve us, and we can all do our small part in rejecting mental health stigma, as we build towards a world where difference is celebrated, support is accessible, and there is space to be honest about how we are doing. Want to start fighting stigma in your own life? Here are some places to start:
- Be mindful of the language you use: Using quick phrases like “crazy” or using mental health conditions like ADHD to describe a behavior helps spread misinformation about mental health realities.
- Educate yourself: Keep learning about mental health, tools, and more. (Reading this newsletter is a great start!)
- Talk about your own experience: If you can safely do so, be honest about your own mental health journey, your needs, and the tools that you use to support yourself.
- Create space: If you are a parent, educator, manager, or hold any position of power, lead with compassion by giving those around you space to be honest about their own needs and how they’re doing. This will help you to better support your people.
Changing the conversation around mental health, normalizing seeking treatment, and making that treatment more accessible is what we’re all about. If you’d like to open up about your mental health journey, or could use some support, we would love to talk to you. Just Dial 844-YOU-OKAY to reach our free, confidential support line for Hillsborough County. We can help you find local resources to support you at any stage of your journey.
~ Carrie Zeisse
President & CEO
Tampa Bay Thrives