Doing My Part to End the Mental Health Stigma

Brian FaulknerBlog, Lead Better, Self Care Better, Survival

In This Post:

  • Ending the stigma surrounding mental health is important, necessary work in our schools.
  • Kindness is a starting point to supporting those struggling with their mental health.
  • A story and a challenge to do your part to end the stigma around mental health.

The last few years I’ve been on a mission to end the stigma of talking about mental health.

Let me say this LOUDLY. If you’re not feeling well mentally, there’s nothing wrong with you. There is help out there for you. If you are feeling mentally unwell, it is worth visiting a site similar to or your local mental health provider, so you can get the support you need.

Let me say this LOUDLY. If you're not feeling well mentally, there's nothing wrong with you. Click To Tweet

Part of my mission is to openly support mental health awareness by wearing shirts from the Hope For the Day organization (IT’S OK NOT TO BE OKAY), posting videos to Twitter, or helping with our Self-Awareness Week at school, just to name a few.

I’m lucky because I work with a staff in a school that gets it. Our staff is always ready to rally around our students and meet their needs academically, socially, emotionally, and mentally. “Whatever It Takes” is our philosophy!

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The Twitter post below is something I’ve been grappling with and thinking about for years. How can we support the mental health of our students and staff the same way we do if someone has a physical injury, such as a broken ankle?

Ending the Mental Health Stigma Through Kindness

I think throwing kindness around should be done regardless, but one small gesture of kindness can perform miracles for a person that faces challenges regarding their mental health.

I have suffered from severe anxiety and panic attacks for 25 years. There hasn’t been a day in the last 25 years where I haven’t experienced multiple anxiety attacks every single day.

I’ve done everything to hide this from others, and I’m sure some of my severe attacks have made it obvious that I struggle with something mentally. I’ve also tried to seek help for this, from going for Inpatient Mental Health Treatment in Thailand to confiding in my friends and family, however, I now choose to pay it forward because I don’t want anyone to ever feel how I do.

I do this by completing acts of kindness throughout my day. Acts of kindness have helped me feel better about myself, and I’m grateful every time someone sends kindness my way.

I don’t necessarily ask anyone straight up how they are feeling, I show them that I care, and I’m there for them in other ways. High fives, fist bumps, “you’re awesome” statements, thanks for being great cards, and anything else I can do to make them feel better. By doing this, I am hopefully opening the door to supporting them in more depth in the future, if needed.

Ending the Mental Health Stigma Through Authenticity

Disclaimer: This is the first time I have admitted to anyone other than my wife that I have an anxiety disorder. I’m a little nervous about writing this, even though I just said we need to end the stigma.

It takes time, I guess, and I’m starting with this piece because nothing will ever improve if we don’t continue talking about mental health. I want to give a huge shout out to DeMar DeRozan, George Couros, Kristin Bell, Kevin Love, and so many others that have used their popularity to begin conversations on ending the stigma of talking about mental health. Their work has been courageous and inspirational, and I applaud their efforts.

A Challenge to End the Mental Health Stigma

Here’s my challenge… How can we continue to smile, laugh, and throw kindness at one another even more than we do? Is it possible to open our doors even wider and end the stigma by showing our staff and students that we are all in this together?

When we rally around each other as humans, we create a bond that is unbreakable and this bond may afford us opportunities to support each other in ways we never have before. This sort of mindset is often adopted in the anxiety or depression treatment for Christians at Honey Lake. Clinics like these put some special emphasis on group activities and therapies as part of their program, so there is evidence to suggest this kind of mindset works.

Positivity breeds more positivity! Kindness breeds more kindness! My hope is that acts of kindness begin to multiply at a rapid rate because each of us are willfully throwing it around like confetti. Talking about mental health, showing compassion and kindness towards every member of our learning community, and making a conscious effort to focus on how kindness positively impacts mental health should become everyday acts in all of our schools.


Brian Faulkner is the principal at Heineman Middle School in Huntley School District 158. My focus has been simple from the very start of my career; give students what they need in order to be successful. I fully embrace teacher leadership and a shared leadership philosophy and look for creative ways our staff can collaborate, share, observe one another, and continuously improve their craft. Saying I love what I do is an understatement. I’m on a mission to make a difference in the lives of each member of our learning community. #team158