By Beth Smith, GFWC Health and Wellness Community Service Chairman

Mental health has finally come to the forefront of our conversations, either induced by the pandemic or by a world that is just plain stressful. It’s about time that we can talk to each other about how we feel without being worried about other people’s opinions of us. But are we fully there yet?

It was in May 1949, 72 years ago, that Mental Health Week was first declared by the National Mental Health Association. The conversation around mental health has since evolved, and the May observance became Mental Health Awareness Month in the late 1960’s.

The goal of this nationally-recognized event is to increase public awareness and educate communities to expand the understanding of the effects that mental illness can have on all age groups. As an organization deeply rooted in our local communities, GFWC clubs can impact how mental illness is viewed and spread the word about assisting anyone in need—children and adults.

How can clubs engage the community in an open discussion on mental health?

• Mental Health America has a toolkit called Tools 2 Thrive that you can use for project ideas, posters, images, and social media posts.

• National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has communications tools—ideas, images, and posts—in its You Are Not Alone guide. You can also participate in NAMIWalks Your Way: A United Day of Hope on May 22.
Sometimes just starting a conversation about mental health can help someone. The green ribbon is the international symbol for mental health awareness. By wearing a green ribbon every day during May, you can show people you walk past that you care about their mental health, and possibly help someone who needs to talk. Clubs can make ribbons for their members and for community distribution at places like schools, businesses, and government centers.

Mental health awareness = increased conversations = improved mental health outcomes. I look forward to reading about your community service projects that raise awareness about the importance of mental health on the GFWC Blog. Submit your photos to facebook@njsfwc.org and stories to PR@GFWC.org.