May Is Mental Health Month: Do Your Part to End Mental Illness Stigma

May Is Mental Health Month:  Do Your Part to End Mental Illness Stigma

Think about the last time you were ill, perhaps with the flu.  What if many of your friends and families began calling after they became aware of your illness with messages like the following:

“How embarrassing for you!”

“You must be very weak!”

“Does your family have a history…?”

​Or what if they didn’t call at all?

Of course, these messages or the being cut off are pretty unlikely since the amount of stigma one experiences when physically ill is relatively low.  But this is often not the case for mental illness. There are negative messages, implicit or explicit, attached to those experiencing mental illnesses (such as anxiety, depression, or psychosis).  One of the goals of San Bernardino County’s Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) is to attack this stigma, particularly among children and youth. Mountain Counseling and Training, Inc. (MCT), in carrying out the DBH-funded Student Assistance Program, is serving children and youth in the Rim of the World Unified School District with the strengths-based message that seeking help should be cause for admiration rather than shame.

As a therapist in private practice and the CEO of MCT, one of the metaphors I often use with my clients is that of the aspiring Olympic champion.  Olympic athletes virtually always avail themselves of a coach, believing that this is the surest way to take their performance to their highest level.  As a therapist who has served many clients in our mountain communities, many of whom I greatly admire for their resilience, perseverance, and focused behavior, I know the truth of this metaphor—truly my clients have taught me a great deal about overcoming adversity, identifying their strengths, and discovering and empower compelling life missions.

According to a 2018 Psychology Today article, “Approximately one in five adults in the United States, 43.8 million, or 18.5%, experiences a mental illness in a given year and approximately one in five youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental health disorder at some point during their lifetime. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.” (Kristen Fuller, M.D., May, 2018)

MCT Family Specialists and Clinicians are privileged each day to work alongside some of these individuals in our mountain communities to identify and overcome these challenges. We get to work with kiddos whose potential is being threatened by emotional or behavioral disturbances, some of whom would, without treatment, require higher levels of care including residential placement or psychiatric hospitals.

On Saturday, May 4th, Mountain Counseling & Training, Inc. is hosting our first “Wellness Walk in the Woods,” a gentle 2.3-mile walk around Lake Gregory in honor of Mental Health Month. Enjoy the spring weather at a family friendly walk, resource fair, and celebration. With motivational speaker Dr. Debra Warner, the morning will share strategies for anyone dealing with mental illness and its effects on a family. Together, we can break the stigma and take a big step toward finding success – whatever your chosen goals. There’s no better place to share your story and take steps towards well being, both physically and mentally.

Day-of registration starts at 7 AM at the north-shore parking lot (across from Goodwin’s Market), with Opening Ceremony commencing at 8 AM.  Our walk around the lake will officially begin at 8:30 AM. On-site parking is $10. Furry friends on leashes are more than welcome to join, and you can expect to see an appearance from our own therapy dog, Luke.

Registration is $25 per team or individual (depending on how you choose to sign up), but the sky’s the limit for each team’s personal fundraising goal! Each team/individual will have the opportunity to set up their own donation page (hosted through and share their own story about why supporting mental health efforts is important to them.

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