ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — May is Mental Health Awareness Month and local organizations are planning creative ways to get the community talking about an important topic.
In large letters outside the Memorial Art Gallery, a banner reads “This is what mental health awareness looks like.”
Heather Newton, CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Rochester (NAMI) says this symbolizes progress and dismantling a stigma.
“I encourage people when they are looking for support, to know that we are here,” she said.
NAMI Rochester is a community organization, with a mission to provide support, advocacy, and education around mental health. Newton says nothing is clinical, everything is about creating a supportive environment.
A large QR code helps passersby access resources; ranging from immediate support, legal support, or LGTBQ-specific needs. Newton says this month is all about educating, and making it easy for people to learn. She says it’s also important people aren’t feeling alone in their struggles.
“Paying attention to our mental health is equally important as paying attention to our physical health,” she said.
The month comes as another celebrity is taken by mental illness. Naomi Judd, a country music star, died at 76 years old this week. Her family said in a tweet, “we lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness … we are shattered.”
Newton says it’s news stories like this that get people talking, but it shouldn’t get to this point.
“Just because a person is successful from the outside, financially and professionally successful, doesn’t mean there isn’t pain inside,” she said.
Over the course of the pandemic, Newton says there’s been a tremendous need for help, but she adds the conversation is just getting started; in the workplace, friend groups and in schools.
“I actually think that this is the tip of the iceberg,” she said. “I think it will be years before we really feel like the need is able to be met — in other words the supply and demand evens out.”
If you are struggling, it’s OK. There’s a community out there waiting to help you.
“Whatever level is comfortable for you, our rule of thumb is we want to truly meet you where you are,” she said. “Mental health awareness looks like all of us.”
Click here for a list of trusted resources.