MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - May is Mental Health Month, and the theme for this year is "Life with a Mental Illness," a call to action for people to share what life with a mental illness feels like.

Giving voice to what to what it means to live with mental illness will help remove the stigma of speaking out so more people experiencing mental illness will come out of the shadows and seek the help they need to begin their journeys to recovery.   

“Mental illnesses are common and treatable, and help is available. Talking about mental illness is the key to reducing the stigma and stereotypes surrounding it,” Katherin D. Weiss, program director for Behavioral Health Services at WVU Medicine Berkeley Medical Center, said.

According to Weiss, talking about what mental illness feels like sends a powerful message to those in the shadows of mental illness that they are not alone. Speaking out about what mental illness feels like can encourage others to recognize symptoms early and empower them to be agents in their own recovery.   

WVU Medicine University Healthcare is encouraging people to learn about what having mental illness feels like by attending Mental Health Month events at Berkeley Medical Center and Jefferson Medical Center. All events are free of charge and open to the public.

On May 10 and 12, table exhibits with valuable information and mental health screenings will be available in the main lobby at Berkeley Medical Center.  

On Wednesday, May 11, MINDSTORMTM, a powerful 3D experience when 10 minutes will seem like a lifetime, will enable participants to experience a glimpse of what it’s like to live with schizophrenia. MINDSTORM is a powerful way to develop empathy for people with mental illness. MINDSTORM will be available from 9 a.m. to noon in the alcove across from the cafeteria at Berkeley Medical Center.

On Thursday, May 12, “In Our Own Voice – A Model of Hope and Recovery” will be offered at Berkeley Medical Center from 5 to 7 p.m. in Meeting Room 1. This compelling presentation offers participants insight into how the more than 58 million Americans living with mental illness cope and reclaim rich and meaningful lives. Discussion follows the presentation.

May 16-30, the “Express Yourself through Art” exhibit will be featured in the main lobbies at Berkeley Medical Center and Jefferson Medical Center. This exhibit is an expression of the human spirit with art, created by people with the lived experience of mental illness in celebration of hope and resilience.

On May 23, Mental Health First Aid training will be offered from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the second floor conference room of the Dorothy A. McCormack Center. Mental Health First Aid teaches people how to have the confidence and words to use to talk with someone experiencing a mental health challenge and how to be helpful to the person. For more information or to register for this program, contact Ariel Place at 304-264-1000 ext. 32239 or aplace@wvumedicine.org.

Mental Health Month was initiated more than 65 years ago by Mental Health America to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of good mental health for everyone. Research shows that by ignoring symptoms, people lose on the average of 10 productive years in their lives. Sharing what life with mental illness feels like helps build support from friends and family, reduces stigma and discrimination, and is crucial to recovery.  

For more information on May is Mental Health Month, visit Mental Health America’s website at www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may.

For more information: Teresa E. McCabe, University Healthcare Vice President for Marketing and Development, 304-264-1223