dontwait10yearsMay is officially Mental Health Month. That means it’s time once again to get the word out about the science behind mental illness — and help people understand mental illness is just as real as any other disease.

Organizations around the world each have their own unique way of trying to get people to think differently about this problem. Discrimination and prejudice still exist when talking about things like overwhelming anxiety, depression, OCD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and ADHD.

Heck, there are still some ignorant people in this world that think mental illness is that person’s own fault. That all it takes is pure willpower — as if willpower alone could cure cancer or keep diabetes at bay. This month, we help put such lies to rest and shine the light of knowledge on mental illness.

Here’s our rundown of a select group of mental health awareness campaigns featured this month for 2015 by various organizations around the world.

Mental Health America’s B4Stage4

Mental Health America is pushing for people to act before mental illness hits “Stage 4.” This campaign is called #B4Stage4 — which needs some explanation.

For those who’ve ever had a serious disease diagnosis — like cancer — Stage 4 is the worst stage of the disease. It’s where doctors don’t talk about a cure any longer, they talk about hospice care. They talk about what they can do to make a person comfortable in their dying days. So yeah, you definitely want to get a diagnosis long before Stage 4.

But I find this campaign’s message a bit confusing because a mental illness diagnosis isn’t a death sentence. So getting a mental illness diagnosis isn’t really comparable to someone who’s been told they have a stage 4 cancer. I’m afraid that adapting medical language to try and communicate mental health concerns oversimplifies the complexities of mental illness (which are not purely medical diseases).

Brain & Behavior Research Foundation’s Stop Stigma with Science

The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation has, what I believe, is a simpler and better approach to helping reduce the stigma related to mental illness — knowledge. Specifically, science knowledge. Research has taken us so far in the past two decades that it’s obvious to everyone that science holds the key to unlocking the secrets of mental illness.

#ScienceStopsStigma is the hashtag for the campaign that “focuses on sharing research-based scientific facts about the brain and psychiatric disorders in an effort to educate the public on the importance and impact of mental health science and research and help reduce the stigma of mental illness.”

By shining a light on the science behind mental illness, we can demonstrate with hard data how mental illness impacts our brains — and the effective treatments designed to combat the problem.

NAMI’s #HopeStartsWithYou

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) wants you to be stigma-free. So, naturally, it want you to take the #StigmaFree pledge. The pledge is simple enough:

  • Learn about mental health—educate myself and others

  • See the person not the illness—strive to listen, understand, tell my own story
  • Take action—spread the word, raise awareness, make a difference

Simple and to the point, this is a message that encourages people to become better informed citizens and individuals. Stop repeating the prejudice you grew up with, or the family lines. Stop thinking it’s your fault or it’s just all in your head. Become better informed and help others to become better informed.

Northwestern University’s #BreakTheStigma

#BreakTheStigma Campaign by Northwestern University “features more than 45 mental health organizations that are spearheading initiatives to break social stigmas surrounding mental illness within our society. Whether their scope of focus spans from suicide prevention, addiction and recovery, or eating disorder awareness, we will recognize these individuals and organizations for their leadership in the field. We hope you will join us in celebrating them!”

  • Tweet us @CounselingatNU and tell us how you’re breaking the stigma using the hashtag #Breakthestigma.

  • Upload a picture of yourself to your favorite social media platform with a written message about how you are breaking the stigma.
  • Promote someone breaking the stigma in your community by sharing their work with us on Twitter.

Simple and straight-forward, this campaign also promotes MHA’s #B4Stage4 efforts. On Tuesday, May 12 5 p.m. PT, 8 p.m. ET, they will also host a tweetchat at #BreakTheStigma. (I’m proud to take part in this tweetchat.)

Green Ribbon

Ireland promotes the green ribbon campaign again in 2015. Here’s what they encourage folks to do:

You don’t need to be an expert to start talking about mental health or have all the answers. Sometimes the most helpful thing you can do is to let someone know that you are there for them and simply listen.

  • Talk, but listen too: Simply being there will mean a lot.

  • Take your lead from the person: As a first step, ask them how best you can help.
  • Avoid the clichés: Phrases like ‘Cheer up’, ‘I’m sure it’ll pass’ and ‘Pull yourself together’ definitely won’t help – Being open minded, non-judgemental and listening will.
  • Keep in touch: There are lots of small ways of showing support – Send a text or just ask someone how they are doing.
  • Don’t just talk about mental health: Just be yourself, chat about everyday things as well.

Good advice all around. You can learn more here about how to start the conversation or show your support.

Psych Central’s Idea: #DontWait10Years

#DontWait10Years is the hashtag I’d suggest. Why do most people wait so long to talk to someone about their mental health concerns? 10 years is too long.

Talk to someone today. Treatment is available. It works. And if the first treatment doesn’t seem to be helping, just like in medicine, try a different one (with your doctor’s help).

Mental illness is treatable. Don’t wait 10 years to find that out.