Mental Health Awareness: How to Help a Friend That Needs Support
During World War I, soldiers often suffered from what was called “battle fatigue” or “shell shock.” These soldiers experienced terrible anxiety, nightmares, and even temporary blindness. Little was known or done to treat these symptoms and most soldiers were simply taken off the battlefield to rest for a period, then sent back. In other cases, soldiers were executed and accused of cowardice after suffering from severe shell shock and leaving their posts. Even after the war ended, symptoms often persisted for these heroes and so did the lack of understanding. It wasn’t until 1980 that the American Psychiatric Association (APA) officially recognized the condition these soldiers, and many others, suffered from—Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Unfortunately, the story of PTSD is not unique. Through the ages mental health conditions have been dismissed as character flaws, or worse. Even today, there are still some who believe mental health conditions are not a real health concern. Sadly, stigma, ignorance, and outdated views are what lead many to avoid seeking help or treatment. By creating more mental health awareness, we can all fight against stigma and help the millions of people around the world who suffer from mental health issues each year. Here we review what you can do to create more awareness around this issue and provide the resources needed to help people with mental health conditions.
When is mental health awareness month and what is it?
May is mental health awareness month. Of course, you don’t have to wait until May to show your support for mental health, but this is when it will have the spotlight among organizations and in popular media. Around this time, you may see a lot of information about mental health from hospitals and other important institutions and organizations that provide assistance in the mental health field.
Bolstering these efforts and promoting the work towards a more compassionate and effective way to treat mental health issues is key to getting more people the help they need. Consider starting a fundraiser or sharing information about mental health around this time, so you can create more buzz around this important awareness campaign.
Why is mental health awareness so important?
Aside from creating more understanding around mental health issues, raising awareness is an important part of creating greater support for those affected by mental illness. Without this community support and understanding, people needing treatment and help may be less likely to seek it. There’s also a great need for funding treatment and improving mental healthcare as a whole. By building awareness, we can create an opportunity to highlight and tackle not just mental health itself, but also the issues surrounding it, such as improving the mental health care system. Without an adequate healthcare system with trained medical professionals, treatment options are limited or impossible due to lack of funding or awareness.
How to raise awareness for mental health
To raise awareness for mental health, you don’t have to wait for mental health awareness month to come around. Every day, you can do something to support the creation of a safe environment for anyone coping with mental health conditions. Here are just a few ways you can help:
Donate to the right organizations
Support organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and other charities that work to improve the outcomes for people living with mental illnesses and their families. NAMI takes a holistic approach to supporting individuals affected by mental illness. It provides resources for family members, educational services, advocacy programs and much more. By donating to NAMI, and organizations like it, you can ensure these organizations are around to provide mental health services and resources that are not available through other means. With your support, more people can get the help they need.
Fundraise for mental health awareness
Mental health fundraising is another great way to create awareness and foster support for organizations and individuals. By creating a fundraiser, you can do much more than just a single donation to your favorite mental health charity. Starting your own fundraiser, means you can get others involved by crowdfunding for mental health causes. When you start a fundraiser on GoFundMe, you can begin sharing the fundraiser right away across all your social media platforms and leveraging your own network to support a good cause. Through your fundraiser, you can educate other people on the importance of providing mental health financial assistance to people, charities and causes.
Three ways you can support a friend or loved one
Supporting mental health awareness can also mean something much more personal for some. If you have a friend or family member that is affected by mental illness, creating awareness around the issue takes on a new light. Showing support privately for someone you care about, is also an important part of reducing the stigma around mental illness. Here are a few things you can do to support a friend or family member with mental illness:
1. Find resources that can help
If you’re unsure how to help your friend or loved one directly, do some research on organizations that can offer mental health support. On NAMI’s site, you can find tips and resources on how family and caregivers can provide help. There’s even a list of helpline resources you can reach out to for more guidance, or you can provide this information to your loved one directly. The most important thing to remember is to be there for your friend or loved one and help them feel seen and heard. This is especially important for marginalized people, like the transgender community. For the transgender community, there are organizations like Translifeline.org that offer specialized support for trans people.
There are also resources for suicide prevention, such as the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, if you feel like your loved one needs this type of support as well. However, keep in mind that these are not emergency services. If your loved one is experiencing a mental health emergency, dial 911 and get urgent help right away.
2. Pay attention and adjust how to speak to them
When you know someone you care about is coping with a mental health condition, it’s important you listen to their concerns and feelings. Many times, people with mental health conditions feel misunderstood, and as a result, hide their condition from others. One of the most important things to communicate is that you’re there for them, without asking them to share something they’re not comfortable sharing. Remember, it’s about helping your loved one and listening to what their needs are rather than imposing your own views about what they’re going through. Try to respect the experience they are having without bringing your personal worldview into the conversation.
3. Learn everything you can and take care of yourself
Educate yourself about mental health conditions. Knowing more allows you to better communicate and navigate conversations with your loved one. With so much stigma and misinformation around mental health conditions, you need to ensure you’re not perpetuating more bad information about what your loved one is experiencing.
Another big part of offering support, is making sure you stay healthy. Keeping yourself healthy allows you to be there for your friend or loved one in situations where they may need you to show up for them. If you are not healthy, it will be difficult to provide the kind of foundation that is needed to offer any kind of assistance to a friend. Find counseling resources for yourself if you need to, and make sure you also pay attention to how you’re feeling as you support your loved one.
Create more awareness about mental health today
Creating more mental health awareness can take many forms. From helping someone you know, to creating a fundraiser, to providing mental health care funding—it’s all part of the fight to create a safety net for those with mental health conditions. Start a fundraiser for mental health today and help create a world with more understanding, more education, and more mental health awareness. For free fundraising options, look to GoFundMe as a great place to start a fundraiser.