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Organizations working to reduce stigma on World Mental Health Day

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On Wednesday, Oct. 10, people around the globe recognized World Mental Health Day, a day for education, awareness, and advocacy against a social stigma.

On social media, hashtags such as #MentalHealthDay2018 were popular, tied to posts with support resources and notes showing support.

To Samantha Foster, with Rethink Mental Health Incorporated, this is a great thing to see.

“What this represents is a drive to promote awareness and empowerment of people around the world, across America, suffering from mental health issues,” Foster said.

Aaron Manfredi with Asperger’s Training, Employment, and Life Skills is on the same page.

On Thursday, however, many of those social media posts will fade away. So, what won’t fade away?

“Mental illness is every day,” Manfredi said. “A lot of people do have some type of mental illness. It’s important that we keep talking about it. The more and more we talk about it, the more educated we’ll be, and the more help there will be out there.”

Manfredi works to help people who suffer from a variety of mental illnesses and developmental disorders find jobs.

“Bipolar, we do Schizophrenia, depression, ADHD, ADD. We also help our veterans with PTSD, we also do our ex-felons. I have quite a few with disabilities,” Manfredi said. “Mental health is an everyday thing. It’s an every week thing. It’s an every month thing. It’s all year. It’s important that people understand that just because you have a mental illness, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a job, you can’t have a family, you can’t have a career.”

He explained there is often an unfortunate, negative stigma that comes with mental health issues.

Foster is on the same wavelength, and hopes to teach people that they are far more common than they might think.

“One in five adult Americans suffer from a mental illness at any given time,” Foster said. “So, it’s really not the rarity and the oddity that society treats it as. Mental health is treated like a weakness. It’s treated like something that makes people inferior.”

Foster’s organization, Rethink Mental Health Incorporated, hopes to also promote mental health empowerment and to eliminate discrimination, harassment, and the stigmatization.

She says the organization has four main initiatives to do this:

• Host speaking events for schools, businesses and other organizations to educate on ways to combat mental health stigmas.

• Promote social awareness by inviting others to take the Pledge to ReThink the Stigma and spread this mission.

• Facilitate a safe space to discuss mental health topics and empower people.

• Redistribute donations to affiliated nonprofits who support the mission in additional ways, such as influencing public policy, advocating for equal rights and providing life-changing health care solutions.

One of the most important things to both Manfredi and Foster has to do with the way that society treats people who are struggling with a mental illness or issue.

Foster said, “I think that compassion and human kindness is really the key recipe. You don’t have to be an expert on anxiety, you don’t have to be an expert or a therapist to help someone, reach out, and show them kindness.”

If everybody exercises a little bit more kindness and compassion, Manfredi thinks it will help combat the stigmatization, discrimination, and harassment of those who are living with mental health issues.

“They need to be more accepting of it. Open their arms. Listen to somebody. If somebody has a mental illness, not to make them feel like an outcast,” Manfredi said. “Take them in and accept them for being somebody that might be a little bit different than themselves.”

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