You might have heard May is Mental Health Month, at least I hope you have. Historically, during most awareness months, efforts are made to increase the level of understanding, capture attention and highlight new information important to the topic. Mental Health Month does a great job in efforts to reduce misunderstanding and the stigma associated with a variety of mental health topics. These efforts do not end June 1st. The work happens all year ‘round but gets the most concentrated positive public exposure in May.

Instead of citing the information that accompanies a campaign of awareness, which can be gleaned from any search engine, perhaps a slightly different approach would be of benefit. This notion is a bit simpler and personal in construct yet in some ways a little more challenging to execute than it might sound. After all, introspection is much harder than wearing a tee shirt, waving a banner or applying a window decal.

Think. That is all, think. Permit yourself 10 minutes of peace and quiet and use this time to honestly reflect upon the people in your life. Family, friends, loved ones, colleagues and acquaintances. Chances are very good that you will be able to realize quite early in the exercise that you are familiar with people who struggle with emotional distress of some variety. Take it a step further and consider how the person has been impacted. What do you imagine it is like and how might you be impacted.

The simplest things you take for granted may seem insurmountable to some. Consider the difference between not wanting to get out of bed because it feels so good and not being able to because you simply have neither the emotional nor the physical energy to do so. Perhaps resignation is preferable to reliving another day in the intense darkness that filled yesterday. Those who are able to navigate through these, and countless other examples, are to be commended for their determination and strength. Maybe this a function of hope. In some cases, even that is lost. Can you imagine?

Will this exercise make a difference in your life? Will it in some way help someone else? You are the only one that can answer that question. Your internal compass will determine that course. Keep in mind; we are free to change headings along the way. Empathy. A simple word but a wonderful gift that can be difficult to acquire and sometimes requires courage to give. Will you feel compelled to offer a kind word or reach out in some way that suggests compassion or a desire to understand? Will you choose not to engage in a departure from the current perceptions you may have? Rest assured whichever direction you go will become stronger and more automatic over time.

In 1986 my career in providing mental health services began. Over the years, it has allowed me to witness extremes from torment to peace and from resignation to refusals to quit as well as every imaginable state in between.  For those who have embarked on the same professional path I congratulate you. Check your compass often. I harbor no illusions that everyone who started reading has made it this far. To those who have, I sincerely thank you for listening. Now go be the Tee shirt you want to see in the world.