By Nora McClellan
Activist and writer Nora McClellan writes about the importance of mental health advocacy and why she's a member of Sophrosyne Mental Health
The brain is one of the primary organs of the human body. And yet, not everyone prioritizes caring for it. For a variety of reasons, people with mental illnesses often deny that they are struggling: sometimes they think others will ostracize them for it; or they think asking for help is shameful. But I believe that, by asking for help, you can light the candle that will guide you through the darkness that is mental illness.
Unfortunately, mental illness and asking for help still carries a stigma. Even outside of societal shame, many people do not know enough about their brains to tell when they need help. In recent years, many dedicated mental health advocates have worked to raise awareness. This being said, there is still a long way to go in terms of mental health education. To make a lasting change, more people need to know how their brains work. That way, they can take care of themselves and know how to get help if they need it. As Nelson Mandela said, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
As Nelson Mandela said,"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
At Sophrosyne Mental Health, we’ve made mental health education our mission. Based in the Boston area, Sophrosyne is a non-profit organization combating stigma through making mental health education accessible to all. Our team of young activists aim to educate other young people about the brain and self-care.
But how can we achieve this goal? Well, what’s a more fitting place to educate than school? Sophrosyne members, all students themselves, have identified a discrepancy: while most schools require health classes, the curriculum tends to neglect mental health. This is a major oversight to students’ wellbeing. Learning about mental health enables young people to gain a better understanding and realize when they may need to seek help. In addition, knowledge of mental illness enables people to support a struggling friend and increases overall community acceptance.
... Knowledge of mental illness enables people to support a struggling friend and increases overall community acceptance.
Sophrosyne Mental Health created the Mental Health Rally to mobilize around mental health education. We believe Massachusetts public schools should make it a law for students, grades 5 through 12, to learn about self-care and tending to their mental health. Educating more people on our internal differences will make the community more inclusive. We plan to tackle this issue from a systematic standpoint, as well as cultural, by taking legislative action supporting bills similar to a petition supporting mental health education, Bill S.244 of Massachusetts.
Sophrosyne will host a virtual rally on May 17. The team originally planned to rally physically in Boston, however, the format had to change due to COVID-19 concerns. We still hope to hold a physical rally later this year.
After all, the smallest action can change a life, or even save one.
In the meantime, young people can support mental health education by applying to volunteer for Sophrosyne or promoting the rally. They can also take action by educating themselves, supporting friends who may be struggling, and practicing self-care. After all, the smallest action can change a life, or even save one.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nora McClellan is a high school senior from Massachusetts. She leads the writing team at Sophrosyne Mental Health's Mental Health Rally and is honored to support such an important cause. Her main passions are literature/writing and theatre.