Mental Health Awareness WeekThis week marks the National Mental Health Awareness Week for 2015.

Yesterday evening we hosted a Candlelight Vigil for Mental Health Awareness as a way to kick off the week in this area. The event was sponsored by Mental Health America in Northwest Arkansas and the Springdale Affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). I was glad that First Church could provide the hospitality for an event that was advocating for such an important cause.

I doubt there is a single adult living who hasn’t either suffered from a mental illness or had a close family member or friend who has. At the Candlelight Vigil yesterday, we heard numerous testimonies of or about people who have suffered from anxiety or depression, P.T.S.D., schizophrenia, and dementia. One of the challenges of mental illness is the stigma that has traditionally been associated with it. And that’s exactly why events like National Mental Health Awareness Week are so important.

One of the most poignant parts of the event yesterday evening was the point where we were all invited to take the “Stigma Free Pledge” which focuses on a commitment to learning about mental health, seeing the person (and not the illness), and taking action to help spread awareness about mental health. You can find one version of that pledge here:

I pledge to show compassion by reaching out to those in need.
I pledge to have the courage to speak up and challenge stereotypes and attitudes.
I pledge to teach by sharing my own experiences w/ mental illness and encouraging others to do so.
I pledge to work for a change in how we view and address mental illness.

That pledge contains some wonderful goals, which I think all people can join together to support.