There certainly are a lot of mental health campaigns going on. There’s one or more in every month. Most of these are “awareness” days, which is a little bit confusing. People who already have the assorted disorders are already aware of them, as are probably their families and perhaps their friends.
When it comes to awareness, though, most non-affected people (or people who don’t realize they are affected) find out about them through TV commercials – during Men’s Health Month, in ads for medications, or from organizations like the Wounded Warriors Project. There may be local events, too, but I haven’t seen any in my area. I don’t even see much of anything on my Facebook timeline, even though my friends list contains a lot of people with mental health concerns. I note that there isn’t a Women’s Mental Health Month, even though most people who receive treatment for mental illnesses are women. (There are many, many special days not related to mental health that I knew nothing of until I started to research this post, such as World Animal Road Accident Awareness Day (though I have some experience with this phenomenon), Insect Repellent Awareness Day, and even Spider-Man Day.)
Here’s what I did find.
Mental Wellness Month
Children’s Mental Health Week
International Boost Self-Esteem Month
National School Counseling Week
National Eating Disorders Week
Self-Harm Awareness Month
Brain Injury Awareness Month
World Bipolar Day (which I had never heard of, despite being bipolar myself)
National Stress Awareness Month
National Counseling Awareness Month
Mental Health Awareness Month
National Maternal Depression Month
National Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month
Tourette Awareness Month (May into June)
Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week
PTSD Awareness Month
Men’s Mental Health Month
International Self-Care Day
BIPOC (or Minority) Mental Health Month
National Grief Awareness Day
World Suicide Prevention Day (and National Week and Month)
World Mental Health Day
National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month
ADHD Awareness Week
OCD Awareness Week
National Family Caregivers Month
International Stress Awareness Week
International Survivors of Suicide Day
International Day of Persons With Disabilities
National Stress-Free Family Holidays Month
So, how are people made aware of most of these various disorders? By people wearing different colors of ribbons that correspond to them. The idea, I guess, is to prompt people to ask, “What is that silver ribbon for?” and to be told, “It’s for Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness.” If the person inquires further, it’s a chance to educate them, but most people don’t ask at all or ask only what the color means.
There are only a couple of colored ribbons that everyone knows the meaning of – yellow and pink. The yellow ribbon campaign was started in 1979 to show support for persons held hostage in Iran, but now means support for the Armed Forces. The pink ribbon for the Breast Cancer Awareness campaign started in 1991 and is probably the most successful ribbon awareness symbol there is.
Here are the colors of various ribbons and what mental health concerns they are intended to promote awareness of.
Peach – Invisible Illness
Yellow – Suicide Prevention
Periwinkle blue – Anorexia Nervosa
Teal – Agoraphobia, Anxiety Disorders, Dissociative Identity Disorder, OCD, Tourette Syndrome, Stress Disorders, Social Anxiety Disorder, PTSD, Panic Disorder
Green – Mental Health, Bipolar Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder
Lime green – Mood Disorders, Psychosis, Depression, Mental Illness, Postpartum Depression, Childhood Depression, Maternal Mental Health
Purple – Binge Eating Disorder, Bulimia Nervosa, Eating Disorders, Caregiver Appreciation
Purple and Teal – Suicide, Survivors of Suicide, Family Members of Suicide
Gray – Personality Disorders
Orange – ADHD, ADD, Self-Harm
Silver – Borderline Personality Disorder
So now you know what color ribbon to wear and what month to wear it in. I hope that if you do, people will ask about it and allow you to expand on what it means. I don’t expect that, however. Almost no one has ever asked me about my semicolon tattoo for Suicide Prevention and Awareness. (I occasionally get to explain it if I point it out to them.) Probably the most effective reminders are t-shirts that identify the condition and maybe the awareness month date, but those are harder to come by, except for Break the Stigma and Mental Health Matters ones. (I do have a t-shirt and a hoodie for The Mighty, a website for mental illness and other chronic illnesses.)
Whatever you do to promote mental health and awareness of mental illnesses, though, keep trying. We need to get the word out!