As I’m pretty sure everyone who participates in this forum is already very well aware, May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the US. I did a little googling to find out what that means to different people and organizations. [Apologies for that link. It’s really the most efficient way to share what I found.] Following my brief search, which included a severe sense of disappointment in the less-than-thorough Wikipedia entry, I had some questions about awareness, advocacy, priorities, and PR. This post is a brainstorming session, aimed at generating ideas.
Given that Mental Health Awareness Month lasts for exactly one month, given that we have eleven other months to plan for it, given the notoriously short American attention span, given the many issues that could be addressed, given a basic assumption of who may be listening to the messages put out there, given the many different media outlets for discussion, and given the many wildly inappropriate misconceptions about mental illness…
What message would you prioritize? What venue(s) would you use? What do you want people to know? Which audience(s) do you think you could effectively reach? These questions include several implications, including whether we’re talking generally about mental health or more specifically about mental illness and what we might mean by “awareness” and its relationship to “understanding,” “tolerance,” “acceptance,” “prejudice,” and “stigma.” These questions ask you to consider whether a grassroots approach, an institution-based campaign, or some combination of the two, is more effective. At their core, these questions ask about the nature of advocacy, about what one person could do, about what one small group (that’s us) might accomplish…in one month.
There are twenty-six more days in this month. That’s enough time to get people talking.
ADDENDUM: I wrote this then started doing a little more thinking. While we do a lot of discussing in terms of relating to one another’s experiences, we also sometimes talk about misconceptions, stigma, and advocacy. So, I’ve reached out to my network, done a little research and numbers crunching, and decided that — in a proactive stance on DF’s first Mental Health Awareness Month — Define Functioning is going into the book-making game. The first DF book will be finished (hopefully) by the end of this very month based (almost) entirely on the discussion on this post. The tentative/working title of the book is [insert number here] things we’d like you to know about mental illness. It will be a collection of short entries (1-3 sentences each). Anyone who contributes to the collection will be acknowledged by their screen name unless I’m told otherwise. If you’d rather your acknowledgement be addressed to another name or if you’d like to contribute via email, shoot me something at definefunctioning [at] gmail [dot] com. So, very seriously this time: What do you want people to know?