According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 1 out of 5 children and teens and over 18 percent of adults suffer a mental health crisis every year. People living with clinical depression, an anxiety disorder or any of the other serious mental conditions suffer a stigma in this society based on misinformation and fear. Recently mental health has gained a brighter spotlight in the media, yet there’s a far way to go. Here are three actions to take to help keep the conversation going based on recent successes in Nigeria and around the world.

Educate Yourself

There is no one list of symptoms and traits that all types of mental illnesses share; each person and diagnosis is different and needs to be properly addressed by a trained professional. Popular entertainment media often exaggerates and misrepresents mental illnesses in ways that run counter to how real people experience them. Know the difference between fact and fantasy and ensure that your children and peers are also properly educated to break the system.

Speak With Compassion

Be careful what you say to a person experiencing a mental health crisis. Never comment that the person is somehow “crazy” or “insane.” Additionally, comments in the vein of “just get over it,” “just think positive,” and “it’s all in your head” only serve to reinforce the person’s feelings of isolation and being misunderstood. Instead, ask what you can do to help and then listen without judgment. Remember that no one can truly know and therefore judge another person’s experience. More information about speaking with kindness and sensitivity is available on the website for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Keep Resources On Hand

A mental health crisis can occur with anyone in any demographic at any time, but those considered most at risk are often from marginalized communities which often receive less distributed resources than more affluent areas. Websites like the Trevor Project,,, and Mental Health America are useful online resources to keep on hand to aid people going through emotional troubles. Keeping this list in a cell phone or on small business cards could come in handy in a situation where time is of the essence.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from emotional distress, crippling anxiety, suicidal thoughts, or any similar type of life-altering mental unwellness, know that there is help available 24/7. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or go to the site’s live chat to talk.