May is Mental Health Awareness Month, the perfect time to consider the importance of mental health to our overall well-being. It’s a chance to raise awareness about the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental stresses in order to encourage optimal health and happiness. Many schools, businesses, churches, and other organizations count on event creators to offer informative and inspiring mental health events throughout the month.

With recent calamities like the pandemic, war, food shortages, and more seeming to overtake the world, maintaining mental health is a challenge for more people than ever. And if we don’t know the signs and symptoms we should be looking for, keeping ourselves healthy is made that much more difficult. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics, by the end of 2020, more than 40% of Americans had developed symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Mental Health Awareness Month events can play an especially effective role in preserving and restoring mental health. Mental Health Action Day, which is on May 19, goes one step further by encouraging action to ensure mental health. Together, the campaigns offer the perfect opportunity for scheduling your mental health-themed event.

Need some mental health awareness workshop ideas that are sure to make your event impactful, purposeful, and thoughtful? We’ve got some thoughts.

Best practices for mental health events help ensure a stronger impact

While creating awareness and imparting important information about mental health will be essential to any successful event, certain considerations will help keep your event from becoming simply a rundown of forgettable facts and figures. Find ways to mix up your presentation so your attendees stay interested and alert. 

Nikisha Patton Handy, the owner and executive director of 2 Inspire Peace Inc., spoke to us about the Art Inspired Healing Health and Wellness Festival she’s helping organize at the South Dallas Cultural Center. The all-day event features “workshops, food trucks, vendors, an art-inspired space for the children, a children’s literacy corner, a panel of elders speaking about mental health, and performances from Cure for Paranoia, Bandan Koro, and Jess Garland,” she tells us. With such variety, her audience will be better energized and the presentations that much more effective. While time and budget constraints no doubt set certain limits on even the most ambitious projects, adding variety to your event can help keep your audience engaged and interested.

Along with a good mix of formats, consider these key tips to create a stronger presentation that will be more likely to resonate with your audience:

  1. Focus on your audience’s needs. Knowing your audience is essential to any event or presentation. Your mental health event ideas for college students, for example, will likely be very different from those for office professionals. School children might be anxious about bullying, while high school students are at risk for eating disorders. On the other hand, office workers might be more concerned with stress, burnout, and other work-related issues.
  2. Bring in unique points of view. While psychologists and other experts are natural choices to lead discussions and provide essential information, consider pairing these professionals with others who might lend a different perspective. For example, many religious leaders spend a considerable part of their time counseling families, and individuals and can offer their experiences on what makes a healthy mind. Or, consider a local coach or another motivator who can offer insight on what gets people to perform their best. Then, invite your audience to share their own points of view.
  3. Be inclusive and compassionate. Getting people to share their thoughts and feelings on such a personal topic as mental health requires an extra level of comfort for participants. A welcoming and compassionate environment provides just the right cushioning so your guests can benefit from your event. While you can go to great lengths to ensure inclusive language and practices are incorporated, it’s often simple gestures that show you’ve prioritized safety and well-being. Content warnings before a screening of a documentary about sensitive subjects, for example, might help reassure your guests that they’re protected while preparing them for challenging content.
  4. Don’t forget to offer resources. Be sure you’re able to provide guests with the resources they need to take the next step once your event is over. Print up cards that include contact information for local mental health services that your guests can take home with them, or invite local organizations to set up booths or send representatives. Offer resources for low-cost or sliding scale mental health services too, since the cost of healthcare for uninsured patients is often a barrier to care.

Give your mental health event a purpose

Centering a theme or a goal can be a great way to keep your event’s presentations focused and thematically connected — reinforcing your overall message. It can provide a sense of purpose as well as a yardstick by which to measure progress, which is a great way to motivate action. Consider these goals as a way to focus your event.

Fundraise for a mental health charity

Find a local organization providing services for mental health and make your event a fundraiser. Partner with a mental health service for veterans or incarcerated people, or promote a clinic that treats eating disorders for teenagers. When people contribute to a cause, they can feel good knowing they’re helping others.

Education is essential

Make education your event’s focus and ensure your guests get an understanding of the signs of mental health issues. Highlight how inclusivity and empathy can help establish a more comfortable and effective environment. Then offer the resources so they can take the next step, such as contact information for counseling and psychological services, books and other educational materials, and links to online support. Give your event a classroom theme and administer pop quizzes and a final exam to make sure your attendees leave enlightened.

Connecting others makes a difference

For a truly impactful event, focus on connection as a way of creating well-being. You’ll want to create a comfortable and welcoming environment, so include sofas, pillows, low lighting, and aromatic scents. Once your guests feel relaxed and at ease, they’ll be more likely to share their stories and experiences. Include a moderator who can move conversations along and encourage participation.

Try out some mental health event ideas

Once you know what your event’s goals are, it’s easier to decide on a format and theme. Still, we get it — for a subject as important as mental health, you want to be sure your event is both effective and appropriate. So we thought we’d get you started with a few ideas that should get your creative juices flowing.

Don’t stress with workplace events

Work/life balance, stress, and burnout are all common mental health issues afflicting workers, so an event that addresses these problems is a good start. You’ll also want to be sure to accommodate office hours and office limitations. Consider a lunch-and-learn event that discusses ways to maintain balance and manage pressures. For a more active event, consider a yoga or meditation session that provides release and relaxation.

Student events can cover a range of issues

For events directed toward students, consider addressing issues such as social relations, bullying, and self-respect. Stress and pressure for good grades and academic achievement are also rich areas for discussion. A mental health fair set up on campus lets you encompass a broad range of topics. Alternatively, try a film screening of an important documentary, then follow it up with a discussion led by a counselor or psychologist. Another strategy is to direct your event to help adults deal with the mental health of children. For example, the Mindspring Mental Health Alliance is hosting an online webinar led by a social worker and therapist, who will help show adults how best to discuss mental health with children, whether students or their own offspring.

Community events create a healthier neighborhood

Your community is no doubt made up of a wide range of people: old and young, homeowners and renters, students and workers. A mental health event directed toward your community, then, might address a wider range of topics. Try a 5k run and fundraiser that benefits a local mental health advocacy group. Or, offer a crisis-training course for community leaders such as educators, clergy, parents, and business leaders so they can be prepared to handle any mental health crisis they might face. You might also feature the arts, such as a music or comedy show or an art fair, both as a demonstration of the power of creativity in maintaining mental health and as entertainment that educates.

Mental Health Action Day for the win

Mental Health Action Day is the day during Mental Health Awareness Month that’s set aside to focus not just on awareness but on taking action to improve mental health. Last year, according to the Mental Health Action Network, more than 1,400 organizations — including nonprofits, businesses, government agencies, and community leaders from over 32 nations — came together to spread the message that action must follow awareness. In 2022, Mental Health Action Day is set for May 19. This year’s theme is “connection,” which will focus on how we can inspire and motivate our neighbors and communities to look out for each other and to counter feelings of isolation.

Mental Health Action Day should focus on specific actions participants can take to protect and restore their mental health. Here are some things to keep in mind when planning your event:

  • Be mindful of current pandemic and economic anxieties. Offer face masks and ample airflow to protect against virus transmission, and be sure to emphasize low-cost options for any services on offer.
  • Know your community. For example, if your neighborhood has been particularly affected by opioid addiction — often a result of loneliness, hopelessness, or a similar state of mind — include services that are directed toward those needs.
  • Inclusiveness is essential. Try to make your event as accessible as possible, whether that means including accommodations for attendees who use a wheelchair or offering a virtual component so that those who prefer to stay safe at home can still enjoy the event.
  • Expertise lends authority. A well-respected psychologist from a local hospital or using materials from nationally recognized organizations can give your audience the assurance that the information they receive at your event is trustworthy and accurate.
  • Know the dos and don’ts. The Mental Health Action Day site offers excellent guidance on event dos and don’ts, so you can be confident in the information your event provides and know the pitfalls you should avoid.

Make a difference this Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental health doesn’t have to be a burden to bear alone. Awareness and action events get communities involved to help ensure everyone’s well-being.

Ready to make a difference this Mental Health Awareness Month? Use Eventbrite to create your event, then make sure millions can find it with the easy marketing and promotional tools you’ll find with Eventbrite Boost.

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