CNN Heroes: Mental Health Awareness Month
01:47 - Source: CNN
Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health matters, please call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline to connect with a trained counselor or visit the Lifeline site.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and this year it seems to coincide with a flurry of violent headlines. For many, this constant bad news adds to the stress of everyday life, which may already feel overwhelming.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, each year in the US, one in five adults experience mental illness and one in six children aged 6 to 17 experience a mental health disorder. That’s millions of people. In 2021, less than half of adults received treatment.
America’s mental health crisis is having a widespread impact that touches everyone.
“One of the things that we underestimate as a society is how our global mental health impacts us as individuals. And we have seen it over and over again as we experience gun violence,” said Michele Neff Hernandez, a 2021 CNN Hero who has helped millions navigate grief and loss through her nonprofit Soaring Spirits. “We can see what happens when people don’t get the help they need; there can be tragic consequences.”
Neff Hernandez is one of many CNN Heroes who have found unique ways to help people with their mental health. Some of them marked Mental Health Awareness Month by sharing advice and insight with CNN’s Elizabeth Belanger about what is working for their communities. Below are edited versions of their conversations.
Michele Neff Hernandez: Mental health is as important as physical health
For Neff Hernandez, whose organization helps widowed people connect with each other in a community of support, it’s important for everyone to know they aren’t alone in their struggle. Mental illness is common, yet the stigma surrounding it is often a hurdle for people seeking the treatment they need.
Michele Neff Hernandez: When our body isn’t working well, going to a doctor to seek the cause or to help alleviate symptoms is considered normal and even responsible. Yet, when we are struggling with our mental health for any reason – including grieving a death, experiencing a traumatic event, even coping with the global and national crises that are a part of our daily narrative – we so often hesitate to seek mental health support. The pervasive stigmatizing narrative that implies that seeking mental health support shows weakness or that a mental illness or the breakdown of our mental health for any reason is something to be ashamed of has a significantly negative impact on our society, especially our young people.
CNN Hero Michele Neff Hernandez
We have to model good mental health care by learning about mental health with the same vigor we use to learn about physical health. Imagine if meditation were as popular as weight loss. Or if picking up your mood stabilizing medication was viewed in the same way as picking up your blood pressure medication. Normalizing caring for and seeking help with mental health is a gift we can give ourselves and the next generation. We all need mental health support at many times in our lives; what a gift it would be if accessing that help were viewed as just part of normal life.
We see this in grief all the time: No one wants to allow people to be sad. We seek to fix instead of listen. We pressure grieving people to “get over it” to make others more comfortable. We set the definition of success after a traumatic event as “returning to normal,” even when returning to a past normal is impossible. The truth is we are always changed by the challenges we overcome, and integrating what we’ve learned about ourselves in the aftermath is one of the key elements of building resilience. When we stigmatize mental health care, we create an environment that ensures that the people who most need help will suffer alone.
Annette March-Grier: ‘Make self-care a priority’
Annette March-Grier is a 2014 CNN Hero and the founder of Roberta’s House, a bereavement center in Baltimore, Maryland. Their programs reach more than 4,000 people of all ages each year. In 2021, the organization moved into a new state-of-the-art center where it hosts in-person support groups and serves people who are suffering all types of loss.
March-Grier stresses the importance of putting yourself first to enhance mental well-being.
CNN Hero Annette March-Grier
Annette March-Grier: Everyone is looking for some kind of balance, yet few are finding it. Your state of mind is where it all begins. Make self-care a priority for your mental wellness. “Self-care is not selfish.” It is a truth that if you don’t take care of yourself, you will have nothing to give others. This includes healthy relationships that can be jeopardized because of stress, burnout, and lack of self-care. Your physical health is also connected to your mental health. Negative thoughts and suppression of these can cause dis-ease, and over time this leads to disease.
Self-care means taking time out for self, creating a gratitude list, journaling, dancing, laughing, breathing fully, smelling the fresh air, being aware of surroundings, being in the moment, enjoying the stillness when you can, taking time out for self, playing with your pet, exercising, reflecting on the past, dreaming about the future, eating healthy, helping someone in need. All of these self-care activities increase the body’s endorphins and bring on relaxation and balance.
Scott Strode: Combine community and fitness
Sports helped 2012 CNN Hero Scott Strode overcome his addiction to drugs and alcohol. He founded The Phoenix in 2007 to provide free athletic activities and a sober support community to others battling addiction. Today, the organization is in more than 200 communities nationwide with nearly 200,000 members.
Strode’s work focuses on the intersection of exercise and personal connection to benefit mental health.
CNN Hero Scott Strode
Scott Strode: Social connection is a powerful tool for creating positive mental health. At The Phoenix, every day we see the profound impact that belonging and social connection has on our members’ confidence and overall well-being. Just spending a few minutes daily in the presence of others can be inherently powerful, and thankfully it is now easier than ever to make these vital connections.
Whether it’s getting together for an activity or just talking about challenges being faced, social connectivity can help us all overcome mental health challenges.
Exercise can also be a powerful tool to improve mental health. We encourage you to get out for a 15- to 30-minute walk or run and consider inviting a friend to join you. Sharing these physical activities with supportive peers can create the vulnerability to begin to share about what else you might be experiencing.
Mary Cortani: ‘Do not judge what you cannot see’
CNN Hero Mary Cortani
Service dogs are often a helpful tool for members of the military returning from deployment and afflicted by conditions like PTSD, depression, and anxiety. 2012 CNN Hero Mary Cortani’s nonprofit, Operation Freedom Paws, has helped nearly 600 veterans, first responders, and others train their own service dogs.
Cortani emphasizes that not all wounds are visible, and silence is not a treatment for mental illness.
Mary Cortani: If the world has taught me anything, it has taught me to remember to be kind, do not judge what you cannot see. Pain is invisible. With all the craziness going on every day, breathe. It is okay to feel down, to feel overloaded, overwhelmed, sad, frustrated. Try not to hold onto it. Seek help, talk to your family, friends, pastor, priest – talk to someone. And for those listening, really hear, pay attention, because sometimes the silence says more than the words. There is no shame to ask for help. It takes courage, and we all have it within us.
It takes all of us to realize mental health needs to be talked about, not buried under the rug. We need open, honest conversations; we have a mental health crisis in this country that is only getting worse as we become more divided. Fear only adds to it. Mental health doesn’t just affect veterans and first responders; it can affect everyone. Trauma is trauma, and enough repeated exposure changes the brain. There is hope, and there can be healing, but we all need to work together to help those who need our help.
We need to stop the silence surrounding mental health and model healthy behaviors so that we can assist with support and help guide towards resources. We are not in this alone, nor are those suffering from mental health issues.
Maintain positive relationships with other people. Feel they can contribute to the community they live in and live and work productively. Cope with the stresses of daily life and manage times of change and uncertainty.What is the color for mental health awareness? ›
The green ribbon is the international symbol of mental health awareness. Wear a green ribbon to show colleagues, loved ones or simply those you walk past that you care about their mental health. It can also be worn in memory of a loved one.Why is mental health declining? ›
Although the examples below are the most common causes of poor mental health, traumatic childhood experiences, domestic violence, and military combat usually play a serious role in mental health decline and mental illness.What is a good quote about mental health? ›
“Being able to be your true self is one of the strongest components of good mental health.” Lauren Fogel Mersy, n.d. “All stress, anxiety, depression, is caused when we ignore who we are, and start living to please others.” To maintain wellbeing, individuals need to recognize their inner strengths.What are 3 keys to mental and emotional health? ›
Healthy eating, physical activity, and regular sleep can improve your physical and mental health. Take time for yourself each day.What color soothes anxiety? ›
Green – Quiet and restful, green is a soothing color that can invite harmony and diffuse anxiety. Blue – A highly peaceful color, blue can be especially helpful for stress management because it can encourage a powerful sense of calm.What color represents anxiety? ›
Anxiety Disorder Awareness Ribbon (Teal Ribbon Color) The teal ribbon brings awareness and support to anxiety disorder.What color means depression? ›
When it comes to depression colors, gray and blue tend to be high on the list of those associated with low mood. In a 2010 study using the Manchester Color Wheel, experts found gray was the color people pointed to when asked to reflect feelings of depression.Why is mental health the biggest problem? ›
Poor mental health influences people's relationships with their children, spouses, relatives, friends, and co-workers. Often, poor mental health leads to problems such as social isolation, which disrupts a person's communication and interactions with others.Why is mental health important? ›
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
- Connect with other people. Good relationships are important for your mental wellbeing. ...
- Be physically active. Being active is not only great for your physical health and fitness. ...
- Learn new skills. ...
- Give to others. ...
- Pay attention to the present moment (mindfulness)
- Talk about your feelings. ...
- Get a good night's sleep. ...
- Eat well. ...
- Stay active. ...
- Practice mindfulness, a way to be fully engaged and present in the moment.
- Keep in touch.
We see this in God's creative acts of making humans in His image (Genesis 1:26–27), of giving them each other as companions (1:27–28), and of giving them a mandate to steward the earth (1:28–30). Regarding mental health specifically, the Bible contains no one word for mental illness.What is a mental health motto? ›
“If you feel life is sinking, try positive thinking.” “Mental health isn't a choice; recovery is.” “A healthy mind is the greatest treasure.” “Taking a step today will help you lead a better tomorrow.” “You're not alone—you have a community of people who support you.”What is an inspirational quote for mental health professionals? ›
“It is not how much you do, but how much love you put into the doing that matters.” “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” “They may forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”What are the 3 important mental health traits? ›
- you are confident when faced with new situations or people.
- you feel optimistic.
- you do not always blame yourself.
- you set goals.
- you feel good about yourself.
- you have good self esteem.
The Three Cs of Disclosing Serious Mental Illness at Work: Control, Conditions, Costs | Psychiatric Services.What are the 4 C's of mental health? ›
In his book “Developing Mental Training,” psychologist Peter Clough, describes four important traits of mental toughness, which he calls the four C's: confidence, challenge, control and commitment.What color calms depression? ›
Purple. Soft purple or lilac colors can offer peace and balance. They are quite serene, which means they can be attributed to lowering stress and anxiety levels. It has a very calming effect on people's moods, especially its soft pastel shades.What color is best for sleep? ›
One study by Travelodge found that households that have blue bedrooms received the best night's sleep compared to any other color. Having blue in your room can make you feel safe, relaxed, and calm. As a result, it's one of the best bedroom colors for sleep.
Research studies discovered red to be the best color light to help you sleep, because it increases production of melatonin as well as full darkness. On the other end of the spectrum, blue is the worst. Despite being a calm-inducing color on most occasions, blue is not suitable for lighting a bedroom.What color is sadness? ›
Sadness. “Gray” was the most frequent color indicated for sadness, followed by “indigo” and then “black” (Figure 1).What color represents anger? ›
Red: Anger, embarrassment, passion, or lust. Blue: Shyness, sadness, or calmness. Yellow: Cowardice, happiness, or caution. Green: Disgust, envy, friendliness, or greed.What is the color of happiness? ›
Yellow: The Colour of Happiness.What color means lonely? ›
In Europe and America, grey is the color most associated with boredom, loneliness and emptiness.What color represents love? ›
Red is a very hot color. It's associated with fire, violence, and warfare. It's also associated with love and passion.What color causes stress? ›
According to color psychologists, the most stressful and anxiety-inducing color is 'red'. Red room ideas can be too intense for some people – could your red decor be one of the reasons why your friends hate your house? It reminds us of danger and is a color that makes you angry.What is the #1 most diagnosed mental disorder? ›
Depression. Impacting an estimated 300 million people, depression is the most-common mental disorder and generally affects women more often than men.What are 5 serious mental illness? ›
SMI includes major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post traumatic stress (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder (VA).What are the top 5 mental illness? ›
- Anxiety Disorders. The most common category of mental health disorders in America impacts approximately 40 million adults 18 and older. ...
- Mood Disorders. ...
- Psychotic Disorders. ...
- Dementia. ...
- Eating disorders.
- Feeling sad or down.
- Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate.
- Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt.
- Extreme mood changes of highs and lows.
- Withdrawal from friends and activities.
- Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping.
Life stressors, such as divorce or trauma, may add to the situation and be the trigger for the breakdown. A nervous breakdown can also be the product of a gradual build-up of stress, commonly arising from pressures related to work, relationships or financial difficulties — divorce or unemployment may be factors.What mental disorders cause anxiety? ›
Examples of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder (social phobia), specific phobias and separation anxiety disorder. You can have more than one anxiety disorder. Sometimes anxiety results from a medical condition that needs treatment.What causes mental illness in the brain? ›
Most scientists believe that mental illnesses result from problems with the communication between neurons in the brain (neurotransmission). For example, the level of the neurotransmitter serotonin is lower in individuals who have depression. This finding led to the development of certain medications for the illness.What are the 7 disorders? ›
- Anxiety Disorders. ...
- Depression. ...
- Bipolar Disorder. ...
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) ...
- Schizophrenia. ...
- Eating Disorders. ...
- Disruptive behaviour and dissocial disorders. ...
- Neurodevelopmental disorders.
Talking openly about mental health can reduce the misconceptions and stigma, and can encourage those who are suffering to seek help and find a support network. It's important for caregivers, friends, and loved ones to understand the impact that mental health has on daily life.What is the most important key element of mental health? ›
1. Cognitive Health. Cognitive health is a key component of your overall mental health, as most of your actions are determined by your thoughts. Your thoughts have a major influence on what you think, your emotions, and your behaviors.What are the 4 key areas of mental health? ›
- Pillar 1: Physical Health.
- Pillar 2: Emotional Health.
- Pillar 3: Cognitive Health.
- Pillar 4: Social Health.
Mental health can be broken down further into three major components: cognitive health, emotional health, and behavioral health.What is the most important skill set in mental health? ›
Psychological flexibility is the single most important skill for your mental health and emotional well-being. The first two pillars create a working approach to mindfulness skills.
Mental health helps us determine how we relate to others, handle stress, and make healthy choices. This model illustrates how our well-being is comprised of five components (the Physical, Emotional/Spiritual, Intellectual, Economic/Financial, and the Social), and how these components are linked together.What are 5 benefits of mental health? ›
- Reduced anxiety.
- Improved moods.
- Clearer thinking.
- A greater sense of inner peace.
- Increased self-esteem.
- Reduced risk of depression.
- Improved relationships.
Raising awareness reduces the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness and seeking treatment. Without treatment, mental health disorders can reach a crisis point. As the World Health Organization states, “there is no health without mental health.”How do you heal yourself mentally? ›
- Value yourself: Treat yourself with kindness and respect, and avoid self-criticism. ...
- Take care of your body: Taking care of yourself physically can improve your mental health. ...
- Surround yourself with good people: ...
- Give yourself: ...
- Learn how to deal with stress: ...
- Quiet your mind: ...
- Set realistic goals: ...
- Break up the monotony:
Prof Clough (Strycharczyk & Clough (n.d.)) describes four important traits of mental toughness, which he calls the 4C's: Control, Commitment, Challenge, and Confidence.What are the 6 concepts of mental health? ›
The Ryff Scale is based on six factors: autonomy, environmental mastery, personal growth, positive relations with others, purpose in life, and self-acceptance. Higher total scores indicate higher psychological well-being.