person holding red umbrella standing in a crowd in the rain

Don’t Rain on My Mental Health Parade!

Will We See You at the Mental Health Pride Parade?

Wait a minute, there is no mental health pride parade! Maybe there were no available Sundays.

After all, the concept of a prideful gathering of people who sympathize with each other’s joy and struggles is one we’ve celebrated for a very long time. It’s a beautiful tradition where we meet and march and gratefully embrace what makes us who we are, finding others who understand us.

New York, for instance, hosts the Brooklyn Pride Parade, Coney Island Mermaid Parade, Queens Pride Parade, African American Day Parade, and scores of others representing the most diverse array of minorities, causes, and idiosyncrasies.

We’re fortunate here to have a calendar full of these inclusive, identity-embracing events throughout the year. And now I would love to see us add another critical cause to the parade rotation:

Mental Health Pride.

In fact, many who already celebrate the causes listed above have a significant overlap with the mental illness community, and they deserve to take pride in all aspects of their identities, don’t you think?

How to Show Your Mental Health Pride

Is there a mental health parade you can march in? No, or should I say, not yet! What we do have is the month of May, which is national Mental Health Awareness Month. Some recommended actions to take
throughout Mental Health Awareness Month include:

  1. Encourage open communication about mental health
  2. Contact legislators
  3. Share mental health screening tools & aid resources

These are all beneficial steps we can take to advance our position in society as mentally ill people, but you’ll notice that throwing a parade and celebrating yourself exactly as you are doesn’t quite make the list.

While there are hundreds of local mental health awareness and fundraising events throughout the United States including walks and races that do extremely important work for our community, there is a key element missing: pride.

A parade would give us the chance to simply be. No agenda, no demands, just dignity and honor for those of us championing lives with mental illness, connecting with each other to show the world that we are more than their negative perceptions of us.

Why not get out there on the streets with joy and energy? Parents, kids, old, young, friends, relatives, and health providers all as one parading with pride. We’ve seen the gravity that these events can have for disenfranchised groups, showing them they are not alone and putting their pride front and center for otherwise-ignorant communities.

How Many People in the U.S. are Mentally Ill?

Bringing more awareness to the importance of accessible mental healthcare, the plights of the mentally ill, and the stigma we endure is never going to be a bad thing. But we can – and need to – do more for this community.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year, with 1 in 20 U.S. adults experiencing serious mental illness each year.

There are so many of us facing the stigma associated with mental illness. Imagine the power we could have if we banded together, joyfully marching through the streets of our respective cities, declaring with our unity that we are proud of who we are and deserve to be treated with dignity!

Without a public display, our identities fade into the background of statistics and stereotypes. And as on piecemeal tactics, ignorant minds will continue distorting our lives as demonically possessed criminals, abusers, school shooters, losers, and imbeciles. They will never see our joy unless we show it to them.

We can dispel misconceptions with action.

Let’s show the world that we are active, proud, and a powerful minority. Let’s show that we are not outof control, disabled, and perpetually in bed. Let’s meet America face-to-face as equals.

Fighting Stigma Transcends Mental Health Awareness

In 1966, Erving Goffman wrote one of the most widely accepted definitions of stigma. He explains stigma as “an attribute that is deeply discrediting and that reduces someone from a whole and usual
person to a tainted and discounted one.”

Stigma positions us as “others,” delegitimizing our very full, varied, and valuable lives.

Stigma will diminish when we claim a parcel of the public space with dignity. Our timidity is the perfect ally to stigma. There is no worse stigma than the one we afflict upon ourselves by hiding from the public eye. The world must witness a strong, organized, and proud community. We will never become a movement until we walk the streets of America.

Let’s walk in public with our heads high. If we are not secure in who we are, how can we

expect wide acceptance?

And even after the parade is done, when everyone has gone home back to their daily lives, they will walk taller knowing that they have a passionate community marching through this life with them always.

We must seek exposure. No social media campaigns, speeches, lectures, or books can duplicate the power of marching together in the city’s heart.

Are we wiser than Martin Luther King or Milk? Are we smarter than the LGTB community? Let’s show the world that we are active, proud and a powerful minority. Let’s show that we are not out of control, disabled, and perpetually in bed. Let’s meet America face to face as equals.


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