President's Perspective Blog

Mental Health Awareness Month

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the numbers for those affected by mental health conditions are just staggering.

One in four people worldwide will be affected by mental disorders, and roughly 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions—including many in the charitable sector. In addition, the pandemic and resulting economic recession have negatively affected many people’s mental health and created new barriers for people already suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported anxiety or depressive disorder symptoms during the pandemic—often from the resulting isolation or job loss. That’s a significant increase from one in 10 adults who reported these symptoms from January to June 2019. Some of the negative impacts include difficulty sleeping or eating, increases in alcohol consumption or substance use, and worsening chronic conditions due to worry and stress over the coronavirus.

I’ve been very concerned in 2021 about the heightened expectations that many of us may have about how the pandemic will end. We all want a quick return to normal, but that’s not likely to happen. The impact of the pandemic will last for a very long time. We continue to see increased waves of infections even as our vaccination levels grow. Some of us are excited to be back in an office, while others of us are anxious about that prospect or possibly even dreading it. Some donors will be excited to have in-person coffee meetings again, and others may want to continue Zoom meetings. Add in family and personal matters and our own expectations about how things “should be,” and it’s going to be very stressful to navigate it all.

But the pandemic also allows us an opportunity to see our workplaces change—and to see our workplace culture change. We are NOT going to return to the same old situation, and that allows us to rethink how our organizations can and should address mental health issues. Take the pandemic out of your mind for a minute, and just imagine how mental health and quality-of-life issues should be handled in your organization. What would that look like? How can we best advocate for ourselves and our colleagues? How can we collectively change workplace culture and attitudes toward mental health and self-care so we’re not stigmatizing people but championing them?

Those are some of the issues that I want AFP and our members thinking about, and we’re going to be offering resources and programming not just in May, but throughout the year, on those topics. I’m so glad to see more and more fundraisers talking openly about mental health and self-help and working to end the stigma surrounding these issues. How we talk about these issues—how we represent them and how we represent our friends and colleagues who experience mental health conditions—is critical.

AFP is committed to raising awareness and providing you with the resources needed to learn about and address a critical subject that impacts so many, including our colleagues, donors and the people we serve. You can find some of our previous articles and resources on our AFP Supports page, and look for more to come as we continue to find new ways to advocate for and champion you and the fundraising community.

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Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA

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