For decades, organizations have claimed colors and months to bring awareness to a particular disease or cause. Awareness is so popular; yet, action remains rare. Change is slow.
Since 1949, Mental Health America and its affiliates across the county have led the observance of May as Mental Health Month by reaching millions of people through the media, local events, and screenings. (Nearly SEVENTY YEARS!)
For nearly three years, I traveled to university class rooms, church basements, community health fairs, hospital training rooms, libraries, book stores, and homes sharing a single story. My story of a bipolar diagnosis and the hope found only in treatment. I have met thousands of people and attempted to bring awareness.
Yet, each time it is really I who gains awareness. I meet another patient, parent, teacher, doctor, spouse. I see another face with pain-filled eyes looking for meaning and strength. I see resilience. I see collapse. I see despair. I see hope.
We go to these "awareness" events and hold hands with those who wear the same color ribbon, it is not because we are unaware. It is because we know all to well mental health is gravely misunderstood, grossly underfunded, and largely understaffed. We mourn those who died and offer comfort to the survivors. We know. We are aware.
As May continues, I will examine additional mental health words including stigma, recovery, patient, and diagnosis.