understanding mental health

understanding mental health

Every person has mental health. It is our emotional, psychological, and social well being. Take time to learn more about mental illnesses - Education promotes empathy and understanding.

Know the facts

Education is key to reducing stigma. Watch the video below to learn more about mental health.

truth or myth

Test your knowledge and see how much you know about mental illnesses, the effects, and the impact on our community.

Troubled youth just need more discipline.

Almost 20% of youth in juvenile justice system have a serious emotional disturbance and most have a diagnosable mental disorder.

Teenagers don’t suffer from “real” mental illnesses. They’re just moody.

1 in 5 teens has some type of mental health problem in a given year. 79% of whom will never receive treatment.

Mental illnesses are not real and cannot be treated.

Mental disorders are as easy to diagnose as asthma, diabetes, and cancer with a range of effective treatments for most conditions.

People who abuse drugs aren’t sick. They’re just weak.

Over 66% of young people with a substance abuse disorder have a co-occurring mental health issue, which complicates treatment.

Mental illness is a personal problem not a business concern.

Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States over back problems, heart disease and liver failure.

People who talk about suicide won’t really do it.

Almost everyone who dies by suicide has given some clue or warning. Do not ignore suicide threats.

We’re good people. Mental illness doesn’t happen in my family.

1 in 4 families are affected by a mental health problem.

It’s not depression, everyone is sad sometimes. You’re just going through a phase.

19 million adults in the US suffer from some form of depression every year.


be nice. in action!

Knowing how to appropriately notice and invite someone in need of help is a great way to show you care. Choose the response for each scenario and see if you know how to engage effectively to best support a person’s mental health.

Erica sits around the corner from Ben at work. Throughout the week, she hears Ben complain to several different people about how he didn’t get the most recent promotion he was trying for.

Erica notices that Ben is also making some statements on his social media; one reads “Every time I try, I fail. There’s no point.”

What is the best way that Erica should invite herself to start a conversation?

“I’m noticing how much this is affecting you, and I can’t imagine what it must be like.”

“Okay, you need to get over this promotion thing. Let’s get back to work.”


Erica should let Ben know what she’s noticed. Empathizing with Ben’s reaction might be difficult, but it’s important to notice that he has some risk factors in his life that could be affecting his mental health. By not coming across as judgmental or annoyed by his complaining, Ben views Erica as an inviting person, and begins to open up about thinking about talking to the counselor available through their work’s Employee Assistance Program. Erica is then able to encourage him to do so. By letting someone know what you’ve noticed, you can invite them to proactively think about their mental health.

Tasha, a sophomore, has a teammate and close friend on her track team that is a junior at her high school. Tasha notices that for the past month, Elise, who is typically energetic and upbeat, has been showing up late to practice, not responding to texts or invites, and she seems rude and moody.

Tasha also overheard other girls on the team gossiping about Elise’s weight...she to be increasingly thinner.

Tasha approaches her coach, whom she trusts, after practice. She tells him what she has noticed about Elise. She also invitesherself to send Elise a text that says “Hey, I’ve noticed that you haven’t been yourself lately, and I’m worried about you. Is everything okay?”

Tasha tries to ignore what her teammates are saying about Elise, and she tries harder to smile at her friend at practice.


Changes in mental health can manifest as behavioral, physical and psychological signs and symptoms. Although it’s difficult to separate these changes from typical “moodiness”, Tasha should take these changes in her friend’s behavior and physical appearance seriously and let a trusted adult know, as well as inviting herself to reach out personally.

You’re scrolling through your social media feed and you notice a post from someone you follow that says, “I want to disappear.” You don’t know this person very well, but your initial reaction is to be concerned.

What would be the best way to respond?

I don’t know this person very well and I don’t want to upset them any further. They could just be doing it for attention. I’m not going to say anything, but I’ll keep an eye on their posts.

Send them a direct message: “Hi, there! I noticed your post and I realize we don’t know each other very well, but I wanted to reach out and make sure you’re okay. I’m happy to listen if you need someone to talk to. There are also people trained on this anonymous line, any time. 1800-273-8255.”


t’s important to take threats of suicide seriously every time. They may be blowing off steam, but it could also be that they need help. If you hear or read a comment you are concerned about, the best thing you can do is to invite yourself to ask the person about it directly. This gives the individual a chance to open up about how they’re thinking, acting, or feeling.

You’ve noticed that your elderly neighbor has not planted his garden this spring like he normally does. You know his wife passed away over the winter, and have been seeing him outside less since this happened.

Give him a call or knock on his door, and check in with him. You could ask how he’s doing, offer to help with the garden, tell him what you’ve noticed- he’s outside less and you miss seeing him around. Simply reach out and show you care in a way that feels genuine to you.

Keep an eye on your neighbor but respect his privacy and don’t say anything. You don’t know what is going on and you might upset him.


Noticing a change in the behavior of people in your life, such as a neighbor, is the first step in the be nice. action plan. Losing a spouse is a risk factor, and by reaching out to your neighbor you are having a positive effect on his mental health, as well as potentially providing a bridge for him to reach out if he is struggling.

Your daughter Madison is a senior in High School and nearing graduation. She has been accepted into the college of her choice. However, lately she has not been studying as much, seems distracted and disconnected from the family. She also has been skipping cheerleading practice - something that is unlike her.

Get mad that she is missing practice and ask her what is going on. Tell her she needs to “get out of this funk” and “get it together”. Graduation is right around the corner and she only has a little bit of high school left.

Invite yourself to approach Madison in a caring way and tell her the changes you’ve noticed (not studying, seems distracted and not going to practice). Ask her if something happened or if she wants to talk about it. Let her know that these feelings of moving on and going to college are typical/healthy feelings and she is not alone. You are there to talk when she is ready.


Madison is going through a lot of changes. Graduating High School and going to College is a big move and noticing these behavioral changes is important. Noticing changes and inviting yourself to have a caring conversation are the first 2 steps in the Action Plan. As you are talking to your daughter remember to listen and avoid negative reactions. Make sure she has a trusted adult to talk to - if that person is not you - find someone she can talk to about these feelings (ie: School Counselor or Cheerleading Coach).

Contact the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan

160 68th St. SW Suite 120
Grand Rapids, MI 49548

info@benice.org | 616.389.8601

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