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Moving From Awareness to Acceptance During Mental Health Month: Why It Matters

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May is Mental Health Month, and several national organizations share helpful resources. We encourage you to explore the following:

Our parent organization, the National Federation of Families, has, for many years, coordinated the second week in May as Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week. We appreciate that in 2022 the Federation changed the week’s focus to Children’s Mental Health Acceptance Week.

Last month, we reminded you of this change and encouraged you to consider these thoughts about awareness vs. acceptance. We hope everyone will continue to reflect on these thoughts throughout the month.

  • Awareness is often a one-time event (for example, holding a rally to build “awareness” or reading a list of symptoms). Acceptance is ongoing – what do we all need to do so that everyone is accepted? 
  • Awareness often focuses on what other people think the individual with the identified condition needs to do (realize they have a problem, get over their “stigma” about treatment, seek out the services others think will help). Acceptance focuses on examining our own beliefs and prejudices and how they are standing in the way of helping develop the kind of support that people say they want.
  • Awareness sometimes focuses on activities, such as wearing ribbons and listening to heart-wrenching stories, that make people feel touched and involved but don’t bring about real change. Acceptance creates pathways for everyone to work together to improve systems and policies so that real change can occur.
  • Awareness can focus on symptoms and what is “wrong.” Acceptance focuses on real people, recognizing their strengths, complexities and individuality. Acceptance doesn’t assume that a difference is a weakness and allows people to decide if they want support and what kind of support would be most helpful to them.
  • Awareness efforts are sometimes created and implemented by people without lived experience with the conditions and sometimes without even getting the input of those with lived experience. True acceptance grows out of efforts that are led by people with lived experience.

Let us know your thoughts and ideas about awareness vs. acceptance. Please also check out the Federation’s resources about Mental Health Acceptance Week.

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