By: Amanda Kearney-Smith

Brain health word cloudI found this new acronym and I love it!

UNITE = Understand, Nurture, Include Others, Talk, Embrace

U: Understand. This means we need to educate ourselves and learn all we can about mental health issues. If you don’t know the signs of depression, or if you don’t understand words like “psychosis”, or you aren’t sure why a particular child with autism might act a certain way, then you need to take the time to learn and understand. Understanding is the first key to ending stigma. Absorb information.

N: Nurture Mental Health. In today’s health-conscious society, we hear all the time about proper bodily nutrition. We are inundated with the right ways to eat, diet, and exercise. You can turn on your TV and within minutes you will see some kind of ad about taking care of your body.  But just as important as nurturing your body, is nurturing your mental health- your emotions, and inner self. We must be aware of our own emotional health, and that of our children and loved ones. Do things to nurture the mental health of yourself and your family and encourage others to do so.  Don’t just take care of your body, take care of your inner self as well.

I: Include Others. Inclusiveness is critical and a key part of reducing stigma. People who have mental illness often have compounding difficulties when they also have to deal with the terrible effects of shame and humiliation. Remember to include everyone. Treat all as equal. Do not discriminate. We must be more inclusive as a society, so that no one is left out.

T: Talk. Start talking! Start speaking up- whether in forums, in blogs, in person, to your family, or friends…everywhere. When you are on your social media channels, and there is an opportunity to talk about mental health awareness, take it. When you learn of an event or tragedy in the news and people want to blame or focus on things like politics, gun control, or movies…bring up the topic of mental health. Far too many times after a tragedy, politicians act quickly to score points and take the spotlight away from mental health and put it on policy debates. Mental health is apolitical. It doesn’t care about partisanship, and if this fight will be successful, we need to talk about mental health awareness and bring it to light. Initiate the discussion. Shine a light on the realm of mental health so people can start thinking about it, and focusing on it.

E: Embrace Therapy. Here is a sentence that all of our society should believe:  “There is no shame in therapy.”  We must stop this notion of embarrassment over seeing a therapist. When an employee tells someone at work “I have a doctor’s appointment”, no one bats an eye. But to say “I have an appointment with my counselor (or psychologist)” suddenly people start mumbling, “Oooh, did you hear so-and-so is seeing a therapist?  Must be dealing with something serious”…and thus the rumor mill begins to churn, and stigma has won.  This is nonsense, and has to stop. A doctor helps to take care of our physical health, just like a therapist is there to help take care of our mental health. There is no shame in seeing a therapist.


Lets UNITE to end the stigma and discrimination we all face! I find myself having a lot of self-stigma and that needs to stop too! Join me in ending all of it!

U.N.I.T.E. to End Stigma!

Amanda Kearney-Smith

I founded the Network as the Executive Director in 2011 and, before that, I was a program director at Mental Health Colorado. My educational background is in Developmental Psychology, but living with bipolar disorder has drawn me to this work. I'm most passionate about protecting the civil rights and dignity of others. In my free time, I love reading, practicing yoga, and spending time with my family here and in Illinois.

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