Approximately one in four Americans suffer from a diagnosable mental illness in any given year, according to the National Alliance for Mental Illness. Those 61.5 million Americans are our friends, our family members, and our co-workers, so it’s important that we break the stigma and become more aware of mental health concerns. Innovative awareness campaigns like these are helping to spread the word in new and exciting ways.
Semicolon Tattoos: Inking for Mental Health
Image via Flickr by PostcardsFromYou
You might have spotted images of people proudly sporting semicolon tattoos on social media and been confused about what they meant. Chances are the recently inked aren’t grammar police, but people wishing to raise awareness of mental illness.
The movement began with the launch of Project Semicolon, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting people battling depression, addiction, self-harm, and suicide. As the organization’s website states, “a semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.”
Some people like Heather Parrie, who shared her struggles with depression and anxiety with the Huffington Post, choose a semicolon tattoo to acknowledge their own personal struggles. Others, like Project Semicolon founder Amy Bleuel have a semicolon tattoo to show support for others suffering from mental illness. Bleuel says her tattoo is a tribute to her father, who committed suicide when she was 18.
Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health
Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health is a joint initiative between entertainer and bipolar disorder sufferer Demi Lovato and leading mental health advocacy organizations. The program encourages people with mental health concerns to start speaking out. It takes a two-pronged approach, reminding sufferers to speak to counselors qualified to deal with mental health issues and to be more vocal in their community to advance mental health causes.
“The more people talk about it, the more people can come out and get the help they need,” Lovato told Medical Daily Pulse.
R U OK? Day: Australians Encouraged to Start Conversation about Mental Illness
In Australia, the second Thursday in September is R U OK? Day, a day where Aussies are encouraged to ask one another a simple question: “Are you OK?” It’s the brainchild of Australian advertising professional Gavin Larkin, who launched the non-profit organization R U OK? after his father committed suicide in 1995.
“Getting connected, staying connected is the best thing any of us can do, both for ourselves and for anybody who may be at risk,” he said in a promotional video posted on YouTube. Suicide and mental illness often go hand in hand, with the National Alliance on Mental Health reporting approximately nine out of ten people who die by suicide experience mental illness.
Approximately 650,000 conversations checked in with one another on the first R U OK? Day in 2009, and its impact is growing. Prominent Australians including Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts, and Simon Baker have all helped raise awareness of the initiative.
With innovative campaigns like these creating social media buzz and grabbing headlines, awareness of mental health concerns and their symptoms is growing here in America and around the world.