(Remember to consult a physician before starting a new exercise routine.)
This week, I’m going to take a break from discussing running tips and focus on one of the main drives behind Lite Up the Nite for Mental Health. Though one of the top priorities of our race is to fundraise for The Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester’s charitable care fund, another important goal of this run is to help fight the stigma often associated with mental illness and treatment of it.
In 1999, the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health included this statement:
Stigma assumes many forms, both subtle and overt. It appears as prejudice and
discrimination, fear, distrust, and stereotyping. It prompts many people to avoid working,
socializing, and living with people who have a mental disorder. Stigma impedes people from
seeking help for fear the confidentiality of their diagnosis or treatment will be breached. For our
Nation to reduce the burden of mental illness, to improve access to care, and to achieve urgently
needed knowledge about the brain, mind and behavior, stigma must no longer be tolerated.
Matters of health should not be the defining quality of an individual—just like you wouldn’t view a person who has cancer as ONLY a cancer patient, someone with a mental illness should not be classified as their diagnosis. Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, Depression, and Anxiety are real conditions that people deal with every day-- but these people are also mothers, athletes, business professionals, and husbands that have so much more in their life than just a disease or disorder.
The unofficial slogan for Lite Up the Nite is, “Because mental wellness shouldn’t be something we only discuss in the dark.” We are asking you, as a runner or walker, to wear bright or neon colors to signify shining light on mental health; that it is an important aspect of our overall well-being, and nothing to be ashamed of. We want to reinforce that mental illness is no more shameful, and just as worthy of attention, as something like heart disease or cancer. The more we can discuss mental health, the more we can bring to light the truth about it.
Knowledge is more than half the battle when fighting stigma. Mental illness affects one in four families in the United States. It is in no way rare in this country. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has some wonderful resources to better educate people on the prevalence and definitions of mental illness, along with ways to eliminate the stigmas often associated with it. Examples are all over their website: “Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, race, religion, or income. Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing. Mental illnesses are treatable. Most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan.” Fight stigma with knowledge.
So, let’s lite up the night for mental health! I am not ashamed to say that I care for my mental health. Are you proud to say that you care for yours?
Good luck, and see you June 21 at Lite Up the Nite!
Look for the next blog post April 20 when I discuss team running.
Have a story you want to share about how mental health or exercise has affected your life? Consider sharing it on this blog! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your story!