Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Spotlight
Learn More About Select Quarterly Observances
Each quarter, we highlight several observances and explain the significance of each. It's a great opportunity to learn more about the meaning behind the observances you know — or don't know.
Countering the Stigma of Mental Health Therapy
The COVID-19 pandemic forced an immediate change in people’s everyday lives. Normal routines were disrupted for millions of people and they found themselves forced into isolation without warning. Many of those same people were forced to deal with major health concerns, and even deaths of family members. According to a scientific brief from the World Health Organization (WHO), the pandemic increased anxiety and depression by 25% globally.
Although the number of individuals who face battles with mental health issues increases each day, millions do not seek therapy due to the negative attitudes and beliefs geared toward mental health. Some feel that loved ones just don’t understand, while others fear that they will be viewed as weak or incompetent. These stigmas — and many more — are the barriers that keep many from seeking the help they need.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common stigmas:
- Family Stigma: Unknowingly, family members may display negative actions toward those with mental illness. They may avoid the person due to embarrassment, shame or because they don’t understand or feel helpless. Family may also make comments about a loved one, such as calling them “crazy,” “lazy,” or “weird.” These stigmas hurt more coming from loved ones and can delay the person seeking help.
- Institutional Stigma: This means that the government, states or other organizations limit access to mental health care or detach it from overall health. Funding for research related to it might be lower as well.
- Professional/Employment Stigma: As a society, we still struggle to put mental health on par with physical ailments, which can make it a challenge for people to feel comfortable discussing issues at work. Yet, mental illness is the greatest cause of worker disability worldwide and an unsupportive work culture can prevent an employee from seeking help. The employee continues to suffer while their productivity understandably declines.
- Public Stigma: We’ve come a long way, but even still, the public’s views and attitudes toward mental illness is negative and discriminatory. How often do we see this play out in media or content we watch for entertainment where they refer to people struggling as “crazy?”
- Self-Stigma: Individuals sometimes feel negative and embarrassed when dealing with their mental health, leading them to judge themselves harshly. The shame becomes a barrier to them seeking care.
The intersectional of race and mental health can’t be ignored either for minorities either. One example is the Black community: Only one in three members receive treatment for mental illness. Yet, the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health report Blacks report symptoms associated with poor mental health than Whites, as Blacks carry the added weight of racism discrimination and inequality.
According to Children’s Health Orange County cultural beliefs also steer sufferers away from therapy, as they fear rejection from their own culture. Certain cultures will seek assistance from family members or a primary care physician, as opposed to seeking care from a mental health professional. Black mental health sufferers avoid mental health treatment due to the fear of mistreatment and racism. Middle Easterners and Asian Americans believe that seeking mental health treatment is a disgrace to the family and will dishonor the heads of the family.
According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), there are several ways we can all assist when it comes to raising our voices against mental health stigmas. Your role as law firm leaders means you have the power to set the tone on how your firm handles conversations around mental health. NAMI suggests the following:
- Talk openly about mental health.
- Educate yourself and others.
- Be mindful of the language that you use.
- Encourage equality between mental and physical illnesses.
- Have compassion.
- Choose empowerment over shame.
- Be honest about treatment.
- Let the media know when they are stigmatizing.
- Learn to limit self-stigma.
LeDonna C. Marine-Nichols, SHRM-CP
Haynes and Boone, LLP
Select Quarterly Observances
January is Braille Literacy Month in honor of the birthday of Louie Braille, who was born on January 4, 1809.
January 1: New Year’s Day is the first day in the Gregorian calendar, a solar dating system used by most of the world.
January 4: International World Braille Day is observed to raise awareness of the importance of braille as a means of communication in the full realization of human rights for individuals who are blind and partially sighted.
January 15: Makar Sankranti is a major harvest festival celebrated in various parts of India.
January 16: Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrates the civil rights leader’s life and legacy. It is the only federal holiday designated as a National Day of Service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities.
January 22: Lunar New Year marks the beginning of the lunar calendar, which is based on the cycles of the moon. It is widely celebrated in East and Southeast Asia. It is also called the Spring Festival in China, where people traditionally engage in a two-week-long celebration.
January 26: Republic Day of India recognizes the date when the Constitution of India came into law in 1950, replacing the Government of India Act of 1935. This day also coincides with India’s 1930 declaration of independence.
January 27: The world commemorates International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a United Nations observance that honors and remembers the tragedy of the Holocaust and the millions of people who lost their lives at the hands of the Nazi regime.
February is Black History Month which celebrates Black history and culture in the United States.
February 14: Valentine’s Day is a western Christian feast day honoring one or two early saints named Valentinus. This holiday is typically associated with romantic love and celebrated by people expressing their love with gifts.
February 20: Presidents Day is a national holiday to honor all past presidents of the United States.
February 22: Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent on the Christian calendar. Its name is derived from the symbolic use of ashes to signify penance. In many regions of the world, it takes place immediately after the excesses of Carnival.
March is Women’s History Month to honor women as significant agents of historical change.
March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month for increasing awareness and understanding of issues affecting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
March is National Multiple Sclerosis Education and Awareness Month for raising public awareness of the autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord.
March 6: Purim, also called the Feast of Lots, is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, an official from the ruling Achaemenid Persian Empire.
March 8: Holi is a Hindu festival that celebrates spring, love and new life. It’s widely celebrated in India and Nepal. It signifies the triumph of good over evil; it is also known as the festival of colors or the festival of sharing love.
March 8: International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
March 17: St. Patrick’s Day is a cultural and religious day of celebration to commemorate one of Ireland’s patron saints and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. Many Americans with Irish ancestry observe the day in remembrance of him.
March 21: Nowruz, also known as the Persian New Year, is a traditional ancient festival celebrating the first day of spring.
March 21: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually in the wake of the 1960 killing of 69 people at a demonstration against apartheid “pass laws” in South Africa. The United Nations proclaimed the day in 1966 and called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination
March 31: International Transgender Day of Visibility is celebrated to bring awareness of transgender people, their identities and their experiences, as well as to recognize those who helped fight for rights for transgender people.
March 31: César Chávez Day commemorates the American farmworker, labor leader and civil rights activist. In “Chávez left a legacy as an educator, environmentalist and a civil rights leader. And his cause lives on,” said President Barack Obama in 2008. “As farmworkers and laborers across America continue to struggle for fair treatment and fair wages, we find strength in what César Chávez accomplished so many years ago. And we should honor him for what he's taught us about making America a stronger, more just and more prosperous nation.”