Millions of people experience mental health barriers and challenges, and due to COVID-19, the numbers are sure to increase. Mental health is not just something people with mental illnesses are encountering. Anyone from any walk of life could possibly deal with mental health issues from an overabundance of reasons – a death of a loved one, workplace stress/burnout or a break up. Mental health is everyone’s concern, which means it is important for you to make sure you are checking in with yourself daily and practicing self-care. What does self-care look like to you? It could mean journaling, meditating, exercising, etc.

How can you be a mental health ally? With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, we wanted to highlight and share how you can be an effective, empathetic and understanding ally for the community. A mental health ally is someone who advocates for the de-stigmatization and de-mystification of mental health. Allies encourage an inclusive space where people feel comfortable enough to share their stories. There are many different ways to be an ally and advocate for mental health in your community. 

It is important to learn about the community you want to advocate for. To be an effective ally for the mental health community, empower yourself by researching and reading information about different mental health advocates, resources, and information. Check out some of the resources at National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and the World Health Organization (WHO). There are so many other organizations you can get involved with. Research different mental health organizations and see how you can support them. 

Nothing is more powerful than being there for someone. Whether that is when they are experiencing a crisis or something ordinarily everyday. It can be difficult for someone struggling with a mental health problem to ask for help. Try to make it easier for them by starting the conversation yourself on how they are doing. Question how you can create a safe space for them to confide in you. It may be difficult for someone to openly talk about how they are feeling. Sometimes, reaching out in a time of need for someone is enough for them. If you don’t know how you can help someone, simply asking the person how you can help may open up the conversation. It is important as an ally to listen with an understanding and empathetic ear. 

The month of May is a great way to begin the conversation about mental health. It is all about having conversations about mental health to end the stigma and create an inclusive and safe world for everyone.

This post was written by Accessible Festivals’ intern Zane Landin. Zane is a Communication (Public Relations) student at Cal Poly Pomona with a passion for mental health access, disability rights, and diversity and inclusion.