May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Updated: May 3

Bergen County is Active in the National Stigma-Free Initiative




Feeling overwhelmed? You are not alone. Anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the United States, and increasingly, affect millions of children as well. The pandemic hit many people very hard socially, economically, and physically, increasing depression and anxiety and causing many to begin suffering from these illnesses who were previously unaffected. It will be some time until the effects of the quarantine, mask-wearing, home-schooling, working from home, loss of income, illness, incessant hand-washing, constant use of hand-sanitizers, inability to hold social gatherings, and loss of loved ones are fully-realized and understood. This is why it is the perfect time to make people aware of mental health resources and reduce the stigma of discussing mental health and identifying yourself or a family member as a sufferer.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and although it has been officially observed in the United States since 1949, it is only in recent years that it has really picked up traction in terms of the general public being aware of its existence. Started by Mental Heath America (MHA), which as the time was known as the National Association for Mental Health), the organization releases a toolkit of materials to guide people with outreach activities. The theme changes every year. For 2022, the theme is Back to Basics, with the goals of providing “foundational knowledge about mental health” and to provide “information about what people can do if their mental health is a cause for concern.”



The Bergen County Stigma-Free Initiative is a county-wide program which aims to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. They are dedicated to raising awareness of the disease of mental illness and create a culture wherein residents who have the disease feel supported by their community and neighbors and feel free to seek treatment for the disease without fear of stigma. For more information and to download a toolkit: https://www.co.bergen.nj.us/mental-health-services/stigma-free-zone



The goals of the Stigma-Free Initative are to:

  • Educate residents that mental illness is a disease and must be treated as such

  • Raise awareness of the prevalence of mental illness in our community

  • Provoke public interest in learning what is “STIGMA-FREE”

  • Providing residents an opportunity to become involved in their community

  • Allow people living with the disease to feel supported by their community and thus decrease feelings of isolation and shame

  • Link people in need to local mental health resources

  • Raise awareness that care is accessible regardless of income



Mental Health America Offers 31 Tips To Boost Your Mental Health


  1. Track gratitude and achievement with a journal. Include 3 things you were grateful for and 3 things you were able to accomplish each day.

  2. Start your day with a cup of co­ffee. Coff­ee consumption is linked to lower rates of depression. If you can’t drink coff­ee because of the caff­eine, try another good-for-you drink like green tea.

  3. Set up a getaway. It could be camping with friends or a trip to the tropics. The act of planning a vacation and having something to look forward to can boost your overall happiness for up to 8 weeks!

  4. Work your strengths. Do something you're good at to build self-confidence, then tackle a tougher task.

  5. Keep it cool for a good night's sleep. The optimal temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.

  6. "You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." - Martin Luther King, Jr. Think of something in your life you want to improve, and figure out what you can do to take a step in the right direction.

  7. Experiment with a new recipe, write a poem, paint or try a Pinterest project. Creative expression and overall well-being are linked.

  8. Show some love to someone in your life. Close, quality, relationships are key for a happy, healthy life.

  9. Boost brainpower by treating yourself to a couple pieces of dark chocolate every few days. The flavanoids, caffeine, and theobromine in chocolate are thought to work together to improve alertness and mental skills

  10. “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” -Maya Angelou. If you have personal experience with mental illness or recovery, share on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr with #mentalillnessfeelslike.

  11. Sometimes, we don't need to add new activities to get more pleasure. We just need to soak up the joy in the ones we've already got. Trying to be optimistic doesn't mean ignoring the uglier sides of life. It just means focusing on the positive as much as possible.

  12. Feeling anxious? Take a trip down memory lane and do some coloring for about 20 minutes to help you clear your mind. Pick a design that's geometric and a little complicated for the best effect.

  13. Take time to laugh. Hang out with a funny friend, watch a comedy or check out cute videos online. Laughter helps reduce anxiety.

  14. Go off the grid. Leave your smart phone at home for a day and disconnect from constant emails, alerts, and other interruptions. Spend time doing something fun with someone face-to-face.

  15. Dance around while you do your housework. Not only will you get chores done, but dancing reduces levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), and increases endorphins (the body's "feel-good" chemicals).

  16. Go ahead and yawn. Studies suggest that yawning helps cool the brain and improves alertness and mental efficiency.

  17. Relax in a warm bath once a week. Try adding Epsom salts to soothe aches and pains and help boost magnesium levels, which can be depleted by stress.

  18. Has something been bothering you? Let it all out…on paper. Writing about upsetting experiences can reduce symptoms of depression.

  19. Spend some time with a furry friend. Time with animals lowers the stress hormone - cortisol, and boosts oxytocin - which stimulates feelings of happiness. If you don’t have a pet, hang out with a friend who does or volunteer at a shelter.

  20. “What lies before us and what lies behind us are small matters compared to what lies within us. And when you bring what is within out into the world, miracles happen.” - Henry David Thoreau. Practice mindfulness by staying "in the present."

  21. Be a tourist in your own town. Often times people only explore attractions on trips, but you may be surprised what cool things are in your own backyard.

  22. Try prepping your lunches or picking out your clothes for the work week. You'll save some time in the mornings and have a sense of control about the week ahead.

  23. Work some omega-3 fatty acids into your diet–they are linked to decreased rates of depression and schizophrenia among their many benefits. Fish oil supplements work, but eating your omega-3s in foods like wild salmon, flaxseeds or walnuts also helps build healthy gut bacteria.

  24. Practice forgiveness - even if it's just forgiving that person who cut you off during your commute. People who forgive have better mental health and report being more satisfied with their lives.

  25. "What appear to be calamities are often the sources of fortune." - Disraeli. Try to find the silver lining in something kind of cruddy that happened recently.

  26. Feeling stressed? Smile. It may not be the easiest thing to do, but smiling can help to lower your heart rate and calm you down.

  27. Send a thank you note - not for a material item, but to let someone know why you appreciate them. Written expressions of gratitude are linked to increased happiness.

  28. Do something with friends and family - have a cookout, go to a park, or play a game. People are 12 times more likely to feel happy on days that they spend 6-7 hours with friends and family.

  29. Take 30 minutes to go for a walk in nature - it could be a stroll through a park, or a hike in the woods. Research shows that being in nature can increase energy levels, reduce depression and boost well-being.

  30. Do your best to enjoy 15 minutes of sunshine, and apply sunscreen. Sunlight synthesizes Vitamin D, which experts believe is a mood elevator.

  31. "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." -Albert Einstein. Try something outside of your comfort zone to make room for adventure and excitement in your life.



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