|The MIX featuring Mental Health Awareness Month|
For what it's worth, other months host mental health awareness days and weeks for different disorders. NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness lists February as National Eating Disorders Week (Feb 23-March 1). March 30 is apparently World Bipolar Day. April is reserved for Alcohol Awareness.
May not only hosts Mothers Day and Memorial Day, but the month is divided into consecutive weeks:
Children's Mental Health Week, Anxiety and Depression Week, Older Americans Mental Health Week, and Schizophrenia WeekBut Mothers Day gets all the attention. I caught a woman just a little younger than myself lingering at the flower display in the grocery store. I thought, She has one! And it made me sad. i realized this is my first Mother's Day without one. This past winter must have been good for flower growers because they are spectacular. A visual masterpiece.
Of course, even if you have one there's no saying this is going to be a fun or a stress-free experience, not the day, nor the gifting. There's stress built-in, especially if mom has always been difficult. The day's approach can be so depressing (or so I hear at work) that it is easier to carp about the commercial crassness of this otherwise benign Hallmark holiday.
But maybe it isn't so benign. It can be a comparison holiday for those who look around and see nothing but others with superior families, more functional families. They rank. Imagine seeing the day as a splendid opportunity to say, You matter. Let's do lunch, just the two of us. Or just family. Impossible.
Functional could look like this, how I did my brother's last birthday. He has one in early May. I popped by his office late on a Friday afternoon with a clunky box of documents that our mother and father had left behind, things that only my sister-in-law, a lawyer, knows how to decipher, cash out, or pitch. But I'm there with no birthday present. He sees me and is clearly happy to see me. But me, bearing no gift, first thing, before hello, guiltily blurt out,
"I didn't get you a gift OR a card!"Thrilled, he flips back,
"Great! Because I never have time to get you one either!"This can be loving, no gifts. I think if families dropped the gifts in general, they would have a lot more fun. But there would still be comparisons, who has fun, who doesn't.
Not having a mom, or having lost one, it doesn't matter how long ago, many of us are going to have difficulty on May 11, Mothers Day. And the reminders in the media won't let up until next week, when it is over. We will choose no brunch with Bloody Mary's (I just heard this, that people have pitchers of Bloody Mary's at brunch). Rather we'll opt out to go to a cemetery, have a discussion with relatives, some long gone, some new residents. Memorial Day is also in May. My thinking, one visit will do.
One of my kids sent me a link to a good podcast about Mental Health Awareness Month. A local radio station, THE MIX, WTMX (101.9 FM Chicago), features a social service agency, TURNING POINT. Susan Wiencek conducts the interview. I had wanted to write something substantive about mental health month, but didn't quite know where to begin.
Now I'm off the hook. You can listen to therapist Julie Rooney, and Ann Fisher Raney, CEO of Turning Point Behavioral Health Care Services, They do a better job. Turning Point, a social service organization in Skokie, Illinois, has been there for thousands of families over several decades. The agency hosts a new program called The Living Room, and it is literally a drop in center, an actual living room. People stop by and can talk to a professional, let go of some of their stress. Such a great idea, isn't it?
"What can we do to become more aware of mental health issues?"either Julie or Ann, not sure which panelist, replied, and I'm paraphrasing,
"Take a look inside yourself. You matter. Seriously consider your own mental health."I loved that because we all do it, often, think about ourselves, look deep inside. But this month we're supposed to consider ourselves important enough to deserve someone else to share in the process, too. Someone like a mom, in some ways. Or a sister or brother. Or not. No matter, no gifts are allowed.
So Turning Point, and surely hundreds of other creative social agencies have torpedoed the myth that mental health isn't affordable, therapy is too expensive. Community mental health is alive and kicking. If you're lucky enough to have an agency with open doors, one like Turning Point, stop by.
My guess is that they serve cookies, too, and make a decent cup of coffee. Just a guess.
Here's the link to the podcast.