May Brings Spring Flowers and Two Important Awareness Campaigns

For me, April and May are the teaser months — the weather gets warm, then drops back to cool… flower bulbs claim it’s spring but rains keep us indoors.

Round about now, I get a little impatient with waiting to enjoy a lawn chair and a tall Diet Coke. Even so, May is one of my favorite months because it brings with it two awareness celebrations that mean a lot to me: Teacher Appreciation Week and Mental Health Awareness Month. 

Teacher Appreciation 

Without a doubt, education is pivotal in contributing to a person’s life trajectory. It is one of the key factors referred to as “social determinants of health,” which, combine to affect a person’s overall health. Others are housing, geographical location, food security, access to health care, and economic stability. It can be argued that ultimately education trumps all the rest: well-educated persons will have tools to achieve a healthy standard of life for themselves and their families. And for every educated person, a series of teachers contributed to making it happen.

Teaching is a vocation propelled by more than the need to make a living – it is fueled by passion, love of the profession and students, and hope for the future. A great teacher can change a student’s life and future. For all they do, I extend my sincere gratitude to teachers – today and every day.

Mental Health Awareness

I am equally moved by Mental Health issues, and I appreciate efforts to raise awareness about mental health, to help fight stigma, provide support, and educate the public. Having family members with mental health challenges has taught me how trying it is to manage the disease, how hard it is on the affected person, and its significant impact on the entire family.

I urge you, on this month and every other month, to be aware of health issues. Be on the lookout for them in yourself, friends and family, including youth. One in five adults in the U.S. experience mental health issues each year. And, half of all lifetime cases of mental illness start by age 14 years. Be aware of developmental disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), substance use disorders, depressive and anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and other psychotic disorders. While mental illnesses range in severity from mild to chronic and functionally-debilitating, for many, effective treatments are available.

If you suspect that you or someone you know is experiencing mental health challenges, you can find resources online at mentalhealthde.com and NAMI Delaware, (National Alliance on Mental Illness). By phone, you can call Delaware 211, the Mental Health Association in Delaware at 302-654-6833 or the national mental health hotline 988.

Whether it directly affects you or your loved ones or not, mental health is something everyone should care about. It affects us all as a society in many ways, from economic to personal safety issues.

I extend my gratitude to all who work in mental health fields, from medical personnel to advocates and community-based programs. Mental health can be treated, but only if the resources are available.

And for now, I’ll just have to wait a little longer for warm weather and the joys of summer – the lawn chair and Diet Coke. Happy Spring to all.

Sincerely,
Michelle

Raina Allen - Director, Delaware Racial Justice Collaborative

Michelle A. Taylor, Ed.D.
President and CEO, United Way of Delaware

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