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A Service-Learning Specialist Shares Mental Health Resources

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, take a look at mental health resources for educators and advocates.

Colorful mural of two hands coming together

By Jacob Hicks

May 11, 2021

Twenty-six years ago, I lost my biological father to mental illness. Looking back on his poor mental health and lack of resources, I question if he would have felt more comfortable discussing his “demons” had mental health had been de-stigmatized and widely discussed. Would he have made the connection that he had a mental illness? I know that there are thousands of families and loved ones who probably ask themselves the same questions. While we acknowledge the strides that we have made as a society in the past 26 years, we still have much room to grow.

Acknowledging mental health through awareness and advocacy can seem like a daunting task but is a necessary first step in battling this medical condition. Mental health is “our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

As we define mental health it is important to note that mental health and mental illness, while correlating, are not the same thing. As the CDC points out, someone with “poor mental health may not be diagnosed with a mental illness. Likewise, a person diagnosed with a mental illness can experience periods of physical, mental, and social well-being.” Raising awareness around these topics will continue to help current and future generations.

It is important to know where to access resources for yourself and others. Below are some “starting places” when it comes to learning more and getting involved with mental health and mental illness.

  1. Mental Health America: This nonprofit organization serves as a great tool to learn more about mental health and provides numerous resources such as finding help, peer support, getting involved, public policy, etc. 
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: The CDC provides data, research, and publications around mental health, along with a wide range of tools and resources for learning and finding out about mental health in your local areas.
  3. Social Work License Map: Here, you'll find a list of 60 digital resources for mental health—this includes diagnostic tools, along with links to nonprofits and government organizations and phone hotlines.
  4. Teach Mental Health: This organization offers free resource/curriculum for educators that can be used in the classroom to discuss mental health with students. As most curriculums, there are many parts of the curriculum you can pull and choose from. Teach mental health also offers free modules and trainings for educators.

While these resources are a great place to start, that is exactly what they are—a start. Take time to do your own research and curate a list of resources that work for you. Also, work to normalize discussing mental health and mental illness. Our work as advocates will help bring positive change and healing. 

Jacob Hicks proudly serves as a specialist of service-learning and team member of the Social Emotional Learning Department at Guilford County Schools. Jacob is an active 2016 alumni of the North Carolina Piedmont Triad TFA corps.