Good Life

Helping Hands: Stomp out stigma surrounding mental health

Artists, along with local schools and organizations, created sculptures out of parts of old sneakers as part of the Stompers Project, a community education project on ways to deal with depression and anxiety.
Artists, along with local schools and organizations, created sculptures out of parts of old sneakers as part of the Stompers Project, a community education project on ways to deal with depression and anxiety.

What if I told you 1 in 4 people experience a disorder in a given year? And that half of all chronic cases of this disorder begin by age 14, three-quarters by age 24? Would you be alarmed? Would you want to know more? Would you want to take a stand and help those in need?

It’s time we come together as a community and help those who are struggling in silence. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and I encourage you to listen to the facts. A mental disorder is a diagnosable illness that affects our thinking, feeling and mood. It affects our lives at home, work, school, and with our peers. In other words, it affects the way we live, laugh, love and play.

Yet, despite the effect it can have on an individual’s life, the median delay for treatment is 10 years. Can you imagine waiting 10 years to treat a physical illness like asthma? It could have a lasting effect on your quality of life. Or worse, it could kill you. The same is true for mental illness.

Why there is such a delay in seeking treatment for mental illness? Most often, it is fear of discrimination for disclosing the possibility of a mental or emotional problem. That discrimination causes shame, which in turn causes silence. And silence can kill.

Jana Marie Foundation has launched a new community art project designed to raise awareness about mental and emotional health. The Stompers Project engages community members, students, artists and professionals in discussions of mental health issues. The project includes the creation of life-sized sculptures called Stompers made of used sneakers that symbolize the effort to stomp out the stigma that surrounds mental health. The foundation is working with students from the Delta Program. Their Stomper will be unveiled during a program open to the community at 6:30 p.m. April 29 at the Delta Program auditorium.

In commemoration of Mental Health Awareness Month, Jana Marie Foundation, Skills of Central PA and the Downtown Improvement District are partnering with the shops of downtown State College to create window displays of stopwatch-themed original art designed to encourage people to take time to focus on their mental and emotional health. The month begins with a First Friday event from 5 to 9 p.m. May 1. Please visit www.firstfridaystatecollege.com for more information.

Join us to help stomp out the discrimination and prejudices that surround mental and emotional health. When we break the silence and create a more open and supportive environment for people to get help, we can treat the disease and save lives. Mental illness isn’t something to be ashamed of. It is a common and treatable illness.

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