Mental Health Awareness Month — what clinicians can do to help

Elizabeth Spencer

October is Mental Health Awareness Month, and in recognition Clinton United Methodist Church asked me to come speak to the congregation about anxiety and depression. I treasure every opportunity to speak about anxiety and how to get well, but speaking at a public event during Mental Health Awareness Month felt like a special gift to me. We had a wonderful exchange. I shared my passion for recognizing and treating anxiety and depression with CBT, and the community of people at this church shared some of the joys and sorrows in their lives with me.

This church has had a mental health ministry for 11 years. I had not heard of a mental health ministry before, and was pleased to learn that they actively support the inclusion in their congregation of people who are living with significant disability. This outreach and level of acceptance lead to some profound moments, with people being able to openly talk during the service about topics most people hide due to stigma and shame. Some of the struggles people shared were far beyond the scope of the congregation to improve or of my talk to address. I learned a lot from the church community I spoke to, just as I do from every client I work with.

What a different world it would be if everyone could be part of a community like this one – a place to be known as a human being with struggles and strengths. We clinicians can help educate people during Mental Health Awareness Month and all year long. We know first-hand how real, common and treatable anxiety and depression are, and how people can support and encourage each other without accommodating anxiety. Look for opportunities to speak in your community, and help develop a more accepting and inclusive world. If you feel anxious about speaking, remember it’s a great opportunity to use the skills we teach our clients for ourselves – step up to face your fear, and educate your community at the same time.
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