May is a month with over 100 celebrations, some for a day, a week, and some for the month. Here are a few: National Blessing Day, Wordsmith Day, World Hand Hygiene Day, Brain Injury Awareness Week, Deaf Awareness Week, Sign Language Week, National Anxiety Month, National Blood Pressure Month, and Older Americans Month. The 100+ are focused on categories such as awareness, children, culture, education, food, health, history, religion, and more. Two of the many month-long celebrations are linked to Voice and Vision’s passion and work: Mental Health Awareness and Military Appreciation. Memorial Day is significant to us also as a day to honor and remember those who gave their life while in military service.
How can we individually and/or collectively participate in these important celebrations?
Mental Health Awareness Month:
Bringing awareness and education about mental health begins with individuals and communities caring about mental health, getting informed, removing all fears, and creating safe places for meaningful discussions rich with diversity and resources. Let’s get informed and intentionally create discussions in places we already go such as college, faith groups, community gatherings, work… Data from the National Institute on Mental Health reveal one in five people in the United States live with mental illness and less than half of the individuals receive services. Voice and Vision’s survey data shows participation in behavioral health services improves the quality of people’s lives. Help people access services. Most people connect with a service provider through a personal connection with someone who has received services themselves or through someone who knows how to get help. Find out about our own mental health and get help if needed. Mental Health America offers free online assessments (click here) that gives a “snapshot of our mental health.” Results can show a need for seeking help, and resources are provided there too. Share our own recovery stories and advocate for change. “Mental health awareness means ending the stigma of mental illness by sharing the complexities of our stories and fighting to make care accessible to every family.” Michelle Wu
Military Appreciation Month:
National Military Appreciation Month started in 1999 by Congress so that appreciation for military service will be acknowledged publicly. Author Claudia Pemberton said, “America without her Soldiers would be like God without His angels.” Amen to that!! Saying thank you to those who are in active duty and veterans is one way to show appreciation. Nena Stetson LCSW, military spouse, and speaker on the Purpose and Meaning in Military Service Webinar (available Memorial Day – preview here) provided some great ideas on adding more to your thank you. “So can you tell me about your service? What was serving like for you.” Or if they start the conversation, “Can you tell me more?” Be curious – instead of making assumptions or jumping in. Asking permission to ask a question: “Are you interested in telling me more about your service? Can I ask you about your experience?” Don’t ask pointed, direct, or detailed questions. “So did you see xyz, did you kill someone…” Be conscientious, curious, not prying, and let them lead the conversation. Some soldiers may be very open, and others may not want to talk about it. Here are some appreciative actions you can take: send a card, deliver or pay for a meal, host and invite soldiers and veterans to an event honoring them… CompeerCORPS in partnership with two Delaware County legislators held a free bowling event on May 18th for veterans and their families. Show gratitude and be creative! “Appreciation is the highest form of prayer, for it acknowledges the presence of good wherever you shine the light of your thankful thoughts.” Alan Cohen
Memorial Day weekend is associated with a kickoff to summer. Many folks are busy planning trips, picnics, or other activities to celebrate the new season with friends and families. The true meaning of Memorial Day may be easily overshadowed by a new bathing suit, fun in the sun, or having the day off work. Yet, Memorial Day itself is a day to be focused on others, a day of gratitude and remembrance, while honoring those who lost their life while in military service. Revolutionary War Poet Thomas Campbell said, “The patriot’s blood is the seed of freedom’s tree.” So true! This great nation with all her flaws is “the land of the free and the home of the brave” because of those amazing heroes who paid the ultimate price for her and us. Let’s reflect on the meaning of each person’s sacrifice by participating in the National Moment of Silence on Memorial Day at 3 PM local time and end the day by offering thoughts or prayers of gratitude for their sacrifice and comfort for their families.
Parade.com, May 23, 2023, offered 39 Patriotic Activities to celebrate Memorial Day with Kids, yet you’ll see big kids can enjoy these too. Here are a few: attend a Memorial Day Parade; write letters to troops or families of fallen troops; volunteer to leave flags on military member’s graves at a local cemetery; hang the American Flag and learn the proper care and keeping of the flag; donate to causes that help active-duty soldiers or veterans; make patriotic art and wear or display it; read patriotic books; make care packages for troops…
Whatever you do this month to celebrate, please reach out and include those who are isolated, suffering, sick, hopeless, fearful, and/or alone to celebrate with you. Hope and connections heal souls and save lives.
Mental Health America Website: https://screening.mhanational.org/
National Institute of Mental Health Website: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness
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