It’s May 1st, which means it is Mental Health Awareness Month. If we are lucky, there will be a lot of discussion, around diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues. Awareness months are always an interesting time. Events spring up, folks get involved, ribbons are worn, and then for the most part discussion disappears until the same time next year. Yes, the work is being done year round, but the attention isn’t the same. You hope that issues brought to light during the 30- to 31-day period are enough to help make some everlasting change. I embrace the months, but wish we didn’t need them.

While doing a bit of research and trying to figure out how to be a bit more active this month, I was inspired by poet and mental health advocate Bassey Ikipi to take a closer look at my words. Ikipi was responding to an article where the woman was quoted saying she didn’t want a “bipolar” man. Despite my work interest in the health field, I realized that I’m not always cognizant of how my words impact people. I wondered if there were any sayings or side comments that I filed under the “just how I speak,” category that actually contributed to stigma associated with mental illness.

I decided that this month, I’d be super conscious of word choices as they connect to mental health. It might seem like a big deal, but 31 days is more than enough to build a habit. If I can be aware of my language, and maybe even make others aware of theirs, then maybe I’ll have one more thing to carry with me beyond this awareness month.

Are you observing Mental Health Awareness Month? If so, why and how?

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