Opinion: Make a change this Mental Health Awareness Month

The month of May celebrates Mental Health Awareness. Now, more than ever, kindness toward those struggling with their mental health is needed.


Ally Pronina, Opinions Columnist

My behavioral neuroscience teaching assistant ended this week’s Zoom discussion section on psychopathology by listing the University of Iowa Counseling Service website. She said if we or anyone else is experiencing the symptoms mentioned, it’s a good resource.

This was timely. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental illnesses range from mood to personality to eating disorders. Despite the wide range, there is one thing we can all show which helps anyone struggling: kindness.

Encouraging people who need it to receive help is an example of kindness. We can also check in on those we are worried about and ask how they are doing. For someone with depression who believes nobody cares about him or her, this could be proof that way of thinking is not true.

We can ask what help is needed from those outside the profession and provide it. A person with social anxiety might need a friend there to socialize at a party. We can remind people with mental illnesses they are worth happiness and recovery. What if instead of reprimanding people with substance-abuse disorder for actions they cannot control, we reminded them they deserve and want more out of life? They would be more willing to put in the work needed to get better.

We can show kindness through patience, understanding, and cooperation. Yelling at kids with ADHD for not being able to stand still will not change that behavior. It will only cause more frustration for everyone in the situation. Be empathetic and realize they are trying their best. Find ways to help them accomplish whatever it is you want them to in a way which works for them.

Another act of kindness can be watching our tongues and behaviors. Seemingly innocent actions and words can make the difference between life and death to someone with a mental illness.

Teasing someone about their weight might seem harmless to you, but can trigger someone with anorexia or bulimia. Before laughing at someone who is overweight, remember their extra weight could be from binge-eating.

Before laughing at someone’s fear of water, think about how it could be caused by post-traumatic stress disorder from almost drowning. Before annoyingly calling someone OCD, consider she or he might actually have obsessive-compulsive disorder.

You are less likely to trigger, hurt, and embarrass someone by not laughing or teasing anyone, so don’t. Mental illness, and any type of disability, is no laughing matter. It is a real experience affecting real people. Instead of making fun of people who have them, show kindness.

We can also show kindness by looking past the mental illness and treating whoever has one as a person. People with schizophrenia are humans, not monsters. Like everyone else with mental illnesses, they have passions, loved ones, and talents.

By being kind and showing people with mental illnesses they are valuable, needed, and worth getting to know, we can decrease the stigma. Therefore, more people who need help will be able and willing to get it.

It’s better to have a kind than funny personality, especially if humor is at the expense of others. In a world where you are constantly told you can be anything, be someone who is kind and there for others. We’re all worthy of love and kindness, fighting battles and demons nobody knows anything about. Everyone makes mistakes but any good person will be kind and apologize. You never know when even a small act of kindness, such as saying sorry, will save a life.