OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time for people to tell their stories of living with mental illness and to learn how to better talk with their loved ones about mental health.
A local initiative called Time to Talk Week is hoping to get those conversations started to end the stigma around mental health and mental illness.
According to the Douglas County Health Department, half of Omaha residents have experienced a mental health condition, but over 40% say they would hide it.
This week, Douglas County agencies like the Wellbeing Partners are encouraging people to start a conversation about mental health to end some of that stigma.
“Whether that be around the kitchen table with your family at work with coworkers," said Meka Tate, a mental wellbeing coordinator for the agency. "We want to encourage you to ask twice to see how people are doing.”
Kimberly Wittmeier, NCC, PLMHP with Sage Counseling says more people are speaking out and seeking help for their mental health over the past year.
“There are individuals that have been feeling this way prior to COVID, and that individual sadly due to COVID are feeling now that it’s kind of, we can come together because you feel how I feel," Mittmeier said.
Wittmeier also says sharing these experiences can help others realize they need help or just feel a little less isolated.
“Sharing your story is important because it allows even that one person, which I’m sure there’s more, but even that one person to say, ‘Hey, I know exactly what that feels like, and I’m there,'" Wittmeier said.
Professionals also say it can help normalize and get rid of misconceptions around mental illnesses that are often depicted as scary or violent.
“You don’t feel like you’re so alone when you see someone else that has the same condition, but they may also be a mother or a sister or friend," said Tate. "We want to make sure people are seen not as their conditions, but as their whole person.”
You can find these stories or tell your own on the What Makes Us website.
Time to Talk Week will also feature a mental health walk this Saturday at 10 a.m. at the corner of 25th and Ohio St.