Coming out of Mental Health Awareness Month in May, it is time for you take actionable steps to build and sustain a more mentally healthy community. To help give local government managers the tools to do so, ICMA, in partnership with Cope Notes, introduces a new product offering for a subscription-based service that sends daily texts to help retrain your brain to form healthier thoughts.
Founder and CEO, Johnny Crowder developed Cope Notes from a unique place of deep understanding of both the hurting and healing sides of mental health. From growing up in an abusive home with multiple mental illnesses, it took Crowder 10 years to seek treatment. What’s even more shocking is that Crowder’s long road to seeking treatment is all too common for those experiencing mental illness. The average time it takes someone to seek treatment for their mental illness is 10 years, which is simply not acceptable. To put this statistic into perspective, imagine having a cavity for 10 years before going to the dentist to get it filled. You are not a dentist, and no one expects you to fill your own cavity, so why should you be expected to treat your mental illness without the help of a professional? Our physical health is always a priority, while mental health can still be considered taboo even though it is just as debilitating (if not more) than most physical ailments.
Change the Stigma
The mental health crisis is real, and it is crippling to more of those in your community than you think. Sadly, mental health is typically unintentionally kicked to the back burner due to the stigma surrounding it. Even if policies to improve mental health are implemented within your community, culture is more powerful than policy. It takes a shift in the culture surrounding mental health for those policies to make a real difference in your community.
You can have the best resources available, but they will be useless without proper education.
Crowder shared that beginning the educational process within your community is as simple as leading through example. Establish yourself as a peer and someone who can be easily confided in. Although seemingly small, this will begin a paradigm shift that will open the doors to conversations surrounding mental health, which will naturally trickle throughout your community. Take it a step further by encouraging and actively seeking out easy-to-digest educational resources to share with your community, like TED talks and podcasts. Not only are these readily available, but they do not take a lot of time to consume. Cope Notes is another great way to educate the masses and begin a significant shift in the stigma surrounding mental health. By receiving daily, text-based mental health support and positive psychology information, Cope Notes fosters easy-to-digest mental health education that disrupts negative thought patterns and helps to provide a better understanding of mental health.
As local government leaders, it is easy to let red tape get in the way of taking immediate action on issues, but the urgency for mental health resources supersedes the need for the “perfect plan” to be put in place first. There are several simple and effective ways to make a true change in the overall mental health of your community. Foremost being fostering an environment within your own organization that actively speaks about mental health and provides support. Check out ICMA's list of resources to help you create this type of workplace environment.
Turning your organization into a safe space for mental health will have a bigger impact on the community than you think.
Next on your action items list is making regular announcements via local news, community boards, social media, email, etc. for different mental health resources and education. Resources like TED talks, podcasts, articles, support groups, and mental health apps are just a few the tools you can guide your community to on a regular basis. For example, you can implement a weekly, community-wide announcement called “Mental Health Check Monday,” where you encourage the community to check in on each other and provide a new mental health-related resource (video, article, podcast episode, etc.) for them to explore.
Finally, you can partner with a service like Cope Notes to provide daily mental health education and support to the community at-large. Cope Notes has experience in providing their text-based support to students, employees, communities, and more. Group subscriptions can be obtained by you and redeemed by members of your community at any time.
All It Takes Is One
These are just some of the many actions you can take for the betterment of your community's mental health, and executing such changes doesn't need a whole task force, either. In the case of Pasco County, Florida, for example, the Cope Notes community program was spearheaded by a single champion within the county leadership. Within 48 hours of a local news station airing a story about it, 100% of the county’s subscriptions were redeemed by residents. The quick distribution and implementation of this program is actively helping change lives and shape a more mentally healthy community for Pasco County. This can be your community’s story, too!
If you missed our Building and Sustaining Mentally Healthy Communities webinar, featuring the founder of Cope Notes, give it a listen for more helpful information! Be a champion for your community today, and it will help save lives tomorrow.
Learn more about Cope Notes for communities.