May is designated as Mental Health Awareness Month. I had the privilege earlier today to have a Skype classroom video chat with a local classroom in Northern Virginia. It was a great opportunity to speak with middle school students about the importance of mental health and decrease the stigma about psychological treatment. As a psychologist who researches mental health disparities, public education is one of my passions. It was an honor to be a part of this collaboration between Skype and the American Psychological Association.
How can we decrease mental health stigma?
In response to the White House National Conference on Mental Health, the American Psychological Association partnered with Skype to provide a series of Skype lessons on mental health. The goal of the project is to increase access to mental health care and to help reduce the stigma sometimes associated with seeking it. Each Skype lesson is delivered by a licensed psychologist and covers topics such as anxiety and depression, anger, or resilience. You can read more about the Skype lessons here.
Additionally, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has developed a resource intended to raise awareness of mental health and help counter the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental illnesses. This guide provides excellent information on promoting mental health awareness and best practices for engaging the public. If you’re inclined to reach out to your community it is one way to work towards decreasing stigma.
My Skype session today with middle school students made me realize that the more we a face to mental health concerns in our own communities, the more we can work to decrease stigma. The children in the class had thoughtful questions about typical every day concerns and about when it is important to seek help. For me, this highlighted the importance of continued education about psychotherapy and normalizing help-seeking. I was surprised that after my talk, a few students stated that were interested in being a psychologist. Maybe I even inspired a new generation of professional!
Resources on Mental Health Issues
American Psychological Association http://apa.org/topics/index.aspx
National Institute of Mental Health http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/index.shtml
National Alliance on Mental Illness http://www.nami.org/
Copyright 2014 Erlanger A. Turner, Ph.D.
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