April In Action Blog Series: Mental Health Month

May 28, 2021

May is Mental Health Month, and all month Illinois Action for Children has been spreading the important message that whatever you are facing, you are not alone.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made feelings of isolation, fear, stress, worry, and loneliness more pronounced for most people—myself included. This past year has been strange, unfamiliar, and uncertain—all things that can make coping with the regular stressors of the day even more difficult.

We know that mental health challenges have increased dramatically since March 2020. We’ve stayed home, worked from home, schooled our children from home and washed and disinfected everything, repeatedly. If that wasn’t enough, it’s also hard to believe that a whole year has passed since the tragic murder of George Floyd and the continued struggle of racial unrest, police violence, and the movement for justice and equity. It can feel like it is too much to bear sometimes.

Children and young adults, in particular, have faced so much fear and uncertainty as their routines have been disrupted and their normal avenues of socialization, learning, and growth have been completely cut off.

Under these conditions, it is perfectly natural for anyone—child or adult—to experience emotional distress in new and potentially upsetting ways. 
The societal stigma on mental health challenges and mental illness continues to persist, even during this incredibly difficult time. And we know that, for many reasons, the combination of that stigma and lack of mental health resources is even more acute in some communities. Just one in three people of color in America receive the mental health support they need. This is not okay.

At Illinois Action for Children we are committed to helping erase the stigma and expand access to resources to the people and communities who need them the most. This is also why we support child care providers and their mental health needs now and always.

To better understand how IAFC can help support you as a child care provider, please visit our Early Childhood Mental Health Consultants resource center—including virtual consultations to help meet you where you are.

We also have a variety of just-in-time resources for providers, parents, and anyone else who feels the need for support. We will keep our Mental Health Awareness Month webpage up so you can access all these resources whenever you need them.

I also encourage you to pledge to be StigmaFree by learning more about mental illness from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to see how you can help stop the stigma. Here are a few of their suggestions:

  • Use respectful language when talking about mental health
  • Challenge misconceptions when you encounter them
  • See the person, not the label
  • Offer support if you think someone is having trouble
  • Don’t use harmful labels.

This isn’t something we can do or change alone. It will take all of us, together, to stop the stigma that has too long stood in the way of mental health treatment and awareness.

Thank you for reading, and I look forward to continuing to share my thoughts with you in this space.

Be well.

April Janney

President and CEO

Illinois Action for Children