Join Us in Fighting the Mental Illness Stigma

(Dr. Clayton Lawrence, founder and CEO, shares his thoughts in a weekly column focused on community wellness and inspiring others.)

Mental Illness Awareness Week begins this Sunday and runs through Saturday, October 12. Each year, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, along with participants across the United States, works to raise awareness of mental illness and lift the stigma associated with its diagnosis. According to NAMI, 1 in 5 adults will experience mental illness this year and teens greatly suffer, as well.

We’re joining the fight and are pleased to offer a few ways you, too, and be an advocate. Read on for ways to make a difference not only in the lives of others, but for yourself, as well.

Educate yourself to understand the symptoms of a mental illness, such as depression or anxiety. Treatment is available.

Encourage open communication among family, friends, peers and co-workers.

Eat a healthy diet filled with dark leafy greens, fresh fruits, plenty of fiber and raw veggies.

Recognize that mental health is just as important as physical health.

Always speak to a doctor if you or someone you know has been experiencing signs of a mental illness.

Know the warning signs of suicide.

Take care of yourself physically by getting plenty of quality sleep, eating nutritious meals and exercising regularly.

Make exercise a priority. Its effects on the brain are incredibly positive.

Lose the shame – someone in your daily circle is more than likely suffering, as well.

Free up the schedule to eliminate feeling too stressed out and overworked.

Try something new – living in isolation can make feelings of depression even worse.

Be conscious of the words you use.

Be compassionate – so many individuals in need, such as the homeless population or those being bullied, suffer in silence and could use a hug or listening ear.

Find purpose in your life by volunteering or helping out at the local shelter.

Seek out a local support group that encourages open conversations and acceptance.

When life gets overwhelming, don’t be afraid to ask for help or offer help to others.

Practice deep breathing techniques or meditation, which can help reset a sensitized body and mind.