Everyone knows October as being Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink is everywhere – in stores, on commercials, on Facebook and everywhere else imaginable. It’s great that awareness for this disease has been marketed so well. However, did you know that September was Childhood Cancer Awareness month? Did you know that October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, National Down Syndrome month and, of course, Mental Health Awareness month?
It’s important to recognize all of the important pieces of a month and not get overwhelmed with one color.
I’m not trying to sound rude, but why not put the color green on commercials or on signs for a week? Just one week wouldn’t take away any awareness for Breast Cancer. Being a cancer survivor, I understand the importance in recognizing this disease. But shouldn’t all cancers be recognized all of the time?
Recognizing the Green Ribbon
However, we are talking right now about the green ribbon and that ribbon represents Mental Health Awareness. Since self-harm is intertwined with many mental illnesses, it is important support anyone struggling with any difficult situation. Maybe your roommate has intense anxiety because of upcoming tests. Do something with him or her to help them relax. If your cousin is struggling with Schizophrenia, remind them that you love them. Maybe one of your best friends has been burning their forearms. Sit down with them and talk.
Those are just some examples of ways to support the green ribbon during the month of October. Recently, I was told that students at one of the high schools I spoke to were using my novel, Noon, in some of their research papers. Since one of the characters struggles with suicide and cutting, I saw that as my way of spreading a little bit of awareness into their day without even trying.
However, there is always room to spread a little bit more love. Use social media to help others recognize the need to learn more about mental illness. Buy a book, such as Noon, and read more about self-harm. Tweet positive messages and quotes so that those stressed or upset can feel an ounce of hope.
Writing letters is also a helpful gesture. I’ve written in the past about Dear Letters. Dear Letters are letters that are written to let out any stress, anger or frustration you have towards someone. Typically, these letters are not sent out. However, you can flip-flop the activity and make it into a positive one. Write a letter to someone who is dealing with a mental illness and write about his or her strengths and successes. Write about how you will be there for them through their struggles if they need someone to talk to. If you are feeling up to it, send it out.
Do Something Brave and Beneficial
If you self-harm and are in an unsure place, be brave this month. Before the end of the month, schedule an appointment with a therapist. If you fear counselors, talk to a teacher you trust. If you’re really feeling brave, talk to a parent or a sibling and plan out a way to get better.
Of course, this is all easier said than done – believe me, I know.
Use this month to take a positive step forward and do something you will look back at and be happy you did. Find a new coping skill and stick with it. If you know someone else who self-harms, make a plan together and work on it. Sometimes, supporting those who are in the same boat as you can be more powerful than working on it alone.
Breathe deep, be proud and celebrate the green ribbon.