Removing the stigma surrounding mental health

To the editor:

One in five people will have mental illness in their lifetime. Yet despite how common these conditions are — as common as silver cars, and more common than being left-handed — stigma remains the greatest barrier to individuals seeking help regarding their mental illness.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This serves as a great opportunity for our community to begin eliminating stigma by starting conversations and increasing understanding about mental illness. Now, more than ever before, it is important to talk about mental illness. Many of us could be feeling increased anxiety, stress and feelings of isolation due to the COVID-19. For those Franklin County community members who already live with a mental illness, this pandemic could be causing symptoms to compound.

However, the greatest barrier for those in need of mental health services is stigma. If you know someone who is struggling, be a voice of support. The silence around mental illness is preventing our fellow Franklin County community members, who are — our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members — from feeling better. By breaking down the stigma around mental illness, we can help them access the resources they deserve. If someone were open to you about their mental illness, would you know what to say? Do you have a general understanding of the most common mental illnesses? Do you know how to support loved ones dealing with mental illness? Our staff at Community Connections are here to support, assist and connect you and your loved ones!

As the chief executive officer of a peer run/peer driven agency, I live with anxiety, depression and the daily life stressors that impact my emotional well-being. I share my story, especially when I know it will help others realize, it is OK to talk about their mental health, knowing they are not alone in their struggles.

It is very important for all employers in Franklin County to understand how to support their employees and help get them connected to supports and services in our county. We at Community Connections offer our employees mental health days as we understand our employees may have stressors in their life impacting their mental well-being.

Together as a community, we can end the stigma and create a community where all individuals have the power to create their own opportunities and successes. Together we will build a healthier, stigma free, trauma aware community.

Asking for help is never a sign of weakness. It’s one of the bravest things you can do!

Thank you,

Lee Rivers

Chief executive officer, Community Connections of Franklin County


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