Annual Observances Emphasize Mental Health and Well-Being
By Kathleen McCarthy
The theme of this year’s National Mental Health Counseling Week, being observed May 6 through 12, is “Mental Health … Community Resilience.” This national event increases mental health awareness, promotes recognition of AMHCA state chapters and AMHCA, and supports the mental health counseling profession as a whole.
A letter from AMHCA to its state chapter leaders encouraged chapter leaders to use National Mental Health Counseling Week observances “to raise mental health awareness at home, in schools, in the workplace, in the community, and in the military.”
The letter was an introduction to a substantial project manual of suggested activities for National Mental Health Counseling Week that was compiled by AMHCA’s Public Awareness Committee, chaired by Kimberly M. McCreary.
The manual includes proclamations for governors and mayors to sign, sample public service announcements, suggestions for promoting mental health in the military, as well as a sample press release, which includes the observation that:
“In America, our tightly knit fabric of stability and security has been weakened by episodes of mass violence, war, and recent bouts of extreme climatic events that have destroyed lives, homes, and memories. Suicide among military personnel and veterans is at an all time high, with an average of 22 suicides per day. High unemployment and financial insecurity threatens an already fragile social structure. As a result, these events help to facilitate the increased likelihood of mental distress and mental dysfunction. …
“More than 80,000 licensed professional mental health counselors are available nationwide to help. If you or someone you know needs counseling, look for a licensed or certified counselor in the yellow pages or call AMHCA at 800-326-2642.”
To increase public awareness of National Mental Health Counseling Week, and the need for good mental health, the manual also proposed that members members contact program chairs of civic and professional organizations and offer to give a 20- to 30-minute presentation on the importance of good mental health or another aspect the speaker is comfortable discussing.
Activities for Each Day of National Mental Health Counseling Week
AMHCA’s project manual suggested the following activities:
- May 6: Social media blitz for public awareness. Use Facebook, Twitter, email, and other social media outlets as a forum for discussing mental illness and stigma. Reference mass shootings and bombings, natural disasters and accidents, and veterans and military family issues. Submit articles to online sites and blogs on mental illness and public aware.
- May 7: Candlelight vigil. To be held at local community centers, churches, or outdoor venues, the vigil could highlight the impact of mental health on the community and on individuals. As counselors, it is our opportunity to offer hope and strength, as well educate the public about signs of mental distress and illness, and encourage treatment and healthy lifestyle changes.
- May 8: Community partnerships day:
- With Military OneSource, the Department of Veterans Affairs, or Military Family Support Networks, host a panel discussion on the mental health issues faced by military personnel and their families, and strategies for coping with mental stressors, mental illness, and stigma associated with seeking professional counseling services;
- With the American Red Cross, host a donation drive for recent victims of crisis events and have a combined event to speak with the community about the importance of understanding the effect of mental health before and after a natural or man-made disaster.
- With local schools, discuss mental health issues, stressors, and coping techniques and strategies, and work with school mental health counselors and guidance counselors.
- May 9: Symbolize mental health public awareness in the community. Wear green ribbons as well as the color green to increase public awareness about mental health. Create ribbons to pass out at local areas, such as workplace, schools, homes, hospitals, and mental health facilities.
- May 10: Organize or participate in a Mental Health Awareness Walk. Designed to decrease stigma associated with mental illness, the walk is held on the last Saturday of the month, to close out Mental Health Month.
- May 11: Organize or participate in a mental health fair. Convey that mental health is the positive state of well- being. Partner with local yoga and dance studios, fitness centers, health food stores and restaurants.
- May 12: Media and community engagement wrap-up. Send photos and synopses of events to local papers, online news and media outlets, school websites, and any other outlet that may publish the message of public health awareness along with counselor resource materials.
May Is Mental Health Month
National Mental Health Counseling Week takes place in May because of May Is Mental Health Month.
“Pathways to Wellness”—this year’s theme for “May Is Mental Health Month—calls attention to strategies and approaches that help all Americans achieve wellness and good mental and overall health.
“Wellness is essential to living a full and productive life,” said Wayne W. Lindstrom, PhD, president and CEO of Mental Health America, which started May is Mental Health Month more than 60 years ago, in 1949.
Mental Health America created a calendar that lists a tip for wellness for each day of the month, including,
- “Take 10 minutes out of your workday to take a break; consider taking a walk. Small breaks will help clear your head and improve your ability to deal with stress” (May 3), and
- “Send someone a thank-you note. Noticing and appreciating the positives can o-ffer a boost in mood” (May 20).
- Download the calendar, or view it online.
Mental Health America provided a downloadable “toolkit” that calls attention to strategies and approaches that help all Americans achieve wellness and good mental and overall health. The kit includes:
- Information on key messages related to the “Pathways to Wellness” theme
- A press release,
- An article,
- A fact sheets, including “4 Simple Steps” (a healthy diet, regular exercise, relaxation, and plenty of rest), and
- The poster mentioned above with daily tips for wellness
Other Mental-Health-Related Observances in May 2013
Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, May 5–11
Mental Health Week, May 6–12
- Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)
- While CMHA’s tagline, “Mental Health for All,” continues to be an overarching theme of Mental Health Week, the focus this year is “Youth Mental Health” (ages 15 to 24)
National Prevention Week, May 12–18
- Theme: “Your voice. Your choice. Make a Difference,” a SAMHSA-supported annual health observance dedicated to increasing public awareness of, and action around, substance abuse and mental health issues.
Older Americans’ Mental Health Week is May 23–29
- Message: “Mental illness is not a normal part of aging.”