How You Can Help End the Silence

Written on by Mindy Haas

Mental Health Awareness Month
The month of May is Mental Health Awareness month.  As an organization that advocates for individuals with mental illness, let us tell you why it’s important.

    • Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.
    • Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.—9.8 million, or 4.0%—experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.
    • Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life.
    • For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.

(All statistics obtained through National Alliance for Mental Illness, or NAMI. Additional mental health statistics can be found on NAMI’s website.)

We’re All Affected
You probably know someone with a mental illness, such as serious depression, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or bipolar disorder.  It could be a family member, friend, or friend of a friend.  Many of us are touched by it.

The Stigma
Although we have come a long way in educating the general population on mental illness, stigma still abounds.  It’s often associated with descriptions like erratic, volatile, untrustworthy, and dangerous.  This causes people to be ashamed of their mental illness, to not talk about it, and to not seek help for it.

Common responses to mental illness are: ‘You just need to toughen up’ or ‘You need to snap out of it.’  These comments are not helpful at all. In fact, they are detrimental, making individuals feel shameful, like there is something wrong with them.  Fear of reproach keeps them silent and prevents them from seeking the help they need. 

Mental Illness Does Not Define an Individual
What the mental health community wants you to know is this:  mental illness is a medical diagnosis just like any other illness.    If you have asthma, you use an inhaler. With cancer, you receive chemo treatment.  With mental illness, you may take medication and seek professional guidance.  The diagnosis does not define who one is as a person.

Ending the Silence
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has made great strides in alleviating the stigma around mental illness. Through their newest program, Ending the Silence, NAMI provides middle and high schoolers with a 50-minute educational class on mental illness.  Young adults in recovery from a mental illness provide information on early warning signs and resources that can help.  They also share their experience so the students can understand what it’s like to walk in their shoes.   NAMI is still compiling long-term impacts of the program, but the demand for it in schools is increasing.

NAMI Bucks Strides to End the Silence
One way you can help end the silence is by joining us this Saturday, May 13, for the NAMI Stride for Mental Health Awareness.  If you are free, we would love to have you walk with the Voice and Vision Voyagers!  If not, you can also make a donation towards the End the Silence Program, which will enable the NAMI team to reach more students.

More Ways to End the Silence
The best way to end the silence is by learning about a mental illness, and talking about it. publishes articles written by individuals with mental illnesses about their experiences, and they provide good insight.  NAMI also provides great articles educating us on different mental illnesses – what they are, what to expect, what it’s like to live with one. With a simple google search, you can also find plenty of articles on how you can interact with someone with a specific mental illness.  If you know someone with a mental illness, engage with them.  Listen to them.  We think you’ll find they are beautiful, complex, and talented people.

Thank You
You’ve made it this far along in the article, which indicates you want to participate in ending stigma around mental illness.  So thank you!  Your willingness to join the conversation is one small step to a larger impact.   If you have other suggestions on how to end the silence and fight the stigma, please share with us at!

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