Over the last few years, I’ve learned more about mental health than I ever thought possible: I’ve learned that exercise is as beneficial to our mental wellbeing as it is our physical wellbeing; I’ve learned that anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental illness in the U.S.; I’ve learned how helpful journaling can be to understanding and managing difficult emotions…

I could go on forever. And I plan too, because my personal mission is to spread this important knowledge—and I could sure use your help. Show your support for mental health by taking the six actions outlined below. Erin Parisi, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, and I will help you do so!

    1) Be a positive role model.

    Show your support for mental health by taking care of your own wellbeing. Furthermore, model how you should talk about mental health and oppose insulting references. “Talk openly about mental health; read up on it. And don’t make jokes about people being crazy or insane or broken or damaged,” Parisi says. “The way we talk about mental health matters, and when we judge or insult people for whatever their stuff is, we discourage them from getting the help that they need. Go see your own counselor or psychiatrist, or both! Read self-help books! Buy pop psychology magazines! Take care of your own mental health and a lot of times it rubs off on the people around you.”

    2) Never stop learning.

    Make it your mission to never stop learning about and prioritizing mental health. “Educate yourself on local resources and use them!” Parisi says. “Suicide hotlines, community support meetings, community clinics that have sliding fees for uninsured clients—get to know about the mental health care system. Ask for referrals from people you trust, or if you’re so inclined, volunteer at a local organization. And if there’s an emergency, always call 911.”

    3) Advocate for the mentally ill.

    Even if you don’t have a mental illness yourself, you should advocate for those who do. They face tremendous challenges, from the stigma that surrounds mental illness to receiving care for their illness. “The mental health system of care is not adequate. Not even close. There is a huge gap between effective treatment that works, and the people that have access to it,” Parisi explains. “Insurance companies are working harder and harder not to pay for intensive mental health care for very mentally ill people and people are getting more and more mentally ill. Out of pocket expenses are a major barrier to treatment, and this population is often unable to advocate for themselves.”

    4) Show your support in style.

    You can also show your support for mental health by flaunting it on the outside! “There are more and more clothing brands that have positive, uplifting, and witty sayings on their products. And so much cool jewelry too,” says Parisi. You can easily find shirts and sweatshirts that showcase the importance of self-care, positivity, or even mental health as a whole with cute sayings like, “Self-care isn’t selfish,” and simply “Mental health matters.” This is a great way to spread the word and stop the stigma.

    5) Inspire loved ones.

    Another important action you can take to further the mental health cause is inspire your loved ones to take care of their mental wellbeing. Additionally, don’t be afraid to step in if they’re in a bad place. In this case, Parisi says you should express your concern and encourage them to get help: “Tell your friend you’re worried about them, or that they seem unhappy or angry, or whatever word you would use. Talk to some of their other close friends, family members, their partner/spouse, school counselors, or the adults you trust in your life. Hiding it, or helping your friend hide it, can actually prevent them from getting the help that they need. Tell them you love them and just want to help.”

    6) Be kind.

    And finally, be kind to everybody around you. You never know what somebody’s going through on the inside, and the least you can do is offer them a smile—it just might go a long way. “I love the saying be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,” Parisi says. “We’re all dealing with our own problems. You should be nice to people even if they aren’t nice to you. Smile, say good morning, be a good listener, and take the risk to be open with the people close to you. You might find that it really pays off.”

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