Commentary

COVID-19 and Mental Health Awareness Month

#howareyoureally challenge seeks to increase access to care


 

We are months into the COVID-19 crisis, and mental health issues are proving to be rampant. In every crisis, there is opportunity, and this one is no different. The opportunity is clear. For Mental Health Awareness Month and beyond, we must convey a powerful message that mental health is key to our well-being and must be actively addressed. Because almost everyone has felt excess anxiety these last months, we have a unique chance to engage a wider audience.

Dr. Eva Ritvo, a psychiatrist who practices in Miami Beach, Fla.

Dr. Eva Ritvo

To address the urgent need, the Mental Health Coalition was formed with the understanding that the mental health crisis is fueled by a pervasive and devastating stigma, preventing millions of individuals from being able to seek the critical treatment they need. Spearheaded by social activist and fashion designer, Kenneth Cole, it is a coalition of leading mental health organizations, brands, celebrities, and advocates who have joined forces to end the stigma surrounding mental health and to change the way people talk about, and care for, mental illness. The group’s mission listed on its website states: “We must increase the conversation around mental health. We must act to end silence, reduce stigma, and engage our community to inspire hope at this essential moment.”

As most of the United States has been under stay-at-home orders, our traditional relationships have been radically disrupted. New types of relationships are forming as we are relying even more on technology to connect us. Social media seems to be on the only “social” we can now safely engage in.

The coalition’s campaign, “#howareyoureally?” is harnessing the power of social media and creating a storytelling platform to allow users to more genuinely share their feelings in these unprecedented times. Celebrities include Whoopi Goldberg, Kendall Jenner, Chris Cuomo, Deepak Chopra, Kesha, and many more have already shared their stories.

“How Are You, Really?” challenges people to answer this question using social media in an open and honest fashion while still providing hope.

The second component of the initiative is to increase access to care, and they have a long list of collaborators, including leading mental health organizations such as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Child Mind Institute, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and many more.

We have a unique opportunity this Mental Health Awareness Month, and I hope we will see more and more people sharing their stories and reaching out for help. As a community, we must be prepared to meet the escalating needs of our population.

Dr. Ritvo, a psychiatrist with more than 25 years’ experience, practices in Miami Beach, Fla. She is the author of “Bekindr – The Transformative Power of Kindness” (Hellertown, Pa.: Momosa Publishing, 2018) and is the founder of the Bekindr Global Initiative, a movement aimed at cultivating kindness in the world. Dr. Ritvo also is the cofounder of the Bold Beauty Project, a nonprofit group that pairs women with disabilities with photographers who create art exhibitions to raise awareness.

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