BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month

July is BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month!  Strength in Communities is the theme for 2021, a focal point to be continued even after this month ends.  This theme highlights those persons that are marginalized within their intersectionality of being a person of color and a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.  The more identities one identifies with, the likelier it is they experience a hardship related to discrimination, racism and xenophobia.

Author Bebe Moore Campbell was a mental health advocate that through her personal experiences and writing the book, 72 Hour Hold, brought attention to the disparities experiences by those who are not white as it relates to their mental wellness.  She advocated for services, recognition, and empowerment of those suffering with mental illness, as well as for their family members, especially those in a caregiving role.  In 2007, July was declared Bebe Moore Campbell Minority Mental Health Awareness Month by U.S. Congress.

Terminology often changes in order to align with collective values and knowledge gained to minimize alienating others.  The terms used to describe individuals and groups that are non-white are changing because previous terms incidentally failed to realize individuals, and that whole racial groups are not a monolith.  A good rule of thumb is to ask who you are conversing with how they would like to be identified to avoid offending them.

To learn more about BIPOC mental health, check out:

Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month!  This month celebrates the societal contributions of women.   Beginning as a week-long celebration in California in 1978 where students engaged in essay contests, presentations and parades, this idea soon spread across the United States.  President Jimmy Carter recognized the week of March 8 as Women’s History Week in 1980; lobbying by the National Women’s History Project led to congress recognizing all of March as Women’s History Month in 1986.

Focusing on the history of women’s suffrage (the right to vote in elections), this year’s theme is “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to Be Silenced.”  Made possible with the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, women’s right to vote was a hard fought effort by many through marches, protests, demonstrations and petitions.  The resounding argument was made that as citizens of the United States and contributing members of society, women deserve all the rights, freedoms and responsibilities afforded to men.  This paved the way for quests for equality in the workplace, pay, ability to own property, medical decisions and reproductive rights, and more.

Many women, like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Shirley Chisholm, and Betty Friedan have been trailblazers for the equality of not just other women, but for all.  Their efforts to be the voices of the disenfranchised, poor, excluded and ignored have led to changes in law, practices and societal expectations that have benefited many.   Others from around the world, such as Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, Tarana Burke, Brene’ Brown, Ava DuVernay, and Laverne Cox are currently advocating for women’s recognition, visibility and overall societal growth through advocacy for the environment, LGBTQ+ rights, mental wellness, education, addressing consent and more through the use of art, science, collaboration and the like.

Learn more about Women’s History Month, and recognize and appreciate the women in your life today!

Self-Injury Awareness Day

March 1 is designated as Self-Injury Awareness Day.  This campaign was born out of the importance of bringing awareness to the acts of self-harm, and to destigmatize their existence.  By acknowledging the acts of self-injury, we can provide empathy and understanding to its sufferers; lessen fear and silent suffering; and encourage education about what self-injury is, why it occurs, and how to address it.

Self-injury differs from suicide attempts as it is not intended to end life, rather, it is an attempt to deal with overwhelming emotions like anger, frustration, and pain.  The cycle of self-injury is marked by an escalation of emotion that one feels out of control of, and they engage in a behavior that causes bodily harm (cutting, burning, scratching, hitting self, piercing skin, etc.) which brings temporary feelings of relief and calm.  This then turns into feelings of guilt and shame, and a lessened effect of the chosen method of self-injury, which may lead to using a more severe method/frequent self-harm, increasing the possibility of ongoing harm and/or accidental death.

Awareness of self-injury provides opportunities for those experiencing pain to learn healthier methods to manage their emotions and crises when they occur with the aim of validating pain while preserving life and instilling hope.  The stigma around mental illness and self-injury further isolates those suffering causing them and their loved ones of their voices because not knowing if and what to say can be detrimental as well.  The Mayo Clinic has a thorough summation of the causes, symptoms, types, implications and methods of support for self-injury.

There is also a newer phenomenon of digital self-harm, wherein one uses memes and other online forms of expression to speak to their pain; pose as others speaking negatively of the poster/cyberbullying the poster; or making repeated commentary about self-injury and self-loathing.  Visibility of these posts and gaining “likes” does not serve to support the individual in their mind, rather, it validates the despair and further serves to encourage self-injury.

Orange is the representative color of self-injury awareness, shown either through the wearing of a ribbon, or of drawings of orange butterflies on the wrist.  You can show your support on March 1 by wearing orange and seeking to learn more about self-injury and how you can intervene on behalf of yourself or others.  If you or someone you know is struggling, please fill out a Student in Need of Assistance Report for support through NOVA CARE teams (within the NOVA community), or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.  If you need immediate assistance due to safety concerns on campus, contact NOVA Police at 703-764-5000 or call 911 (off campus).

Random Acts of Kindness Day

February 17 is Random Acts of Kindness Day (Random Acts of Kindness Week falls February 14-20)!  This day highlights unplanned, heartfelt acts of altruism where individuals or groups can “pay it forward” to others.  It can be something simple like giving a compliment, holding a door, or paying for someone’s cup of coffee; it can also be grand, like giving a donation, volunteering time, or helping someone in immediate need.

The event name is derived from a quote from Anne Herbert, who in 1982 wrote “practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a placemat.   Ms. Herbert was an American author and journalist who published a book named after the quote before passing away in 2015.  The idea has been popularized in media, education institutions, and communities alike.

Especially in this time of high stress, taking care of yourself and others is imperative.  Participating in giving and receiving random acts of kindness can positively impact mood, relationships, foster hope, and a sense of connectedness when so many of us are feeling so far apart.  Acts of kindness can be witnessed or not, but as long as the energy and feeling behind the actions you take come from a place of love and kindness, proceed!  (see graphic above for some suggestions)

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has cool materials to share for this event, like calendars, posters, coloring pages, videos and more.  You can also search for kindness suggestions by subject, such as children, animals, at work or at school.  Provided are suggestions on tips to use all year round.  Check out this additional list of 101 Random Acts of Kindness, and come up with some of your own.  Carve out a few minutes to pass along a bit of kindness today!

Black History Month 2021

Black History Month (also known as African-American History Month) is celebrated from February 1 to March 1 in the United States and Canada.  Black History Month manifested from Negro History Week, championed by Carter G. Woodson, which began in 1926 during the second week of February.  In 1976, Gerald Ford was the first president to officially recognize Black History Month, which continues today.

The month was established to highlight the contributions of African-Americans, as well as Black history and plights experienced by the African-American community.    This also presents an opportunity for non-Black persons to learn about Black culture, recognize the shortcomings related to equity, equality and recognition of the rights and humanity of Black people, and engage in dialogue, advocacy, and self-reflection.

Learn more about some notable contributors to Black excellence, such as Carter G. Woodson, Maya Angelou, Ruby Bridges, Medgar Evers, Mary McLeod Bethune, Angela Davis, Jesse Jackson, Henrietta Lacks, John Lewis, and James Baldwin.   New names are emerging during current times of social justice reform, like S. Lee Merritt, Ibram X. Kendi, Ijeoma Olou, Ta-Nehisi Coates,  Rachel Cargle, and Stacey Abrams.

“The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity” is the theme for Black History Month 2021.  Check out ongoing programming from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, Association for the Study of African American Life and History [ASALH] (graphic below), and NOVA’s Student Life (graphic below) happening this month!

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Sources:

Black History Month, History.com editors, https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-month

African-American History Month, Library of Congress, https://www.africanamericanhistorymonth.gov/

MLK Day of Service

The third Monday of January is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday meant to be “a day on, not a day off,” and a call to service.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, as a son of a pastor.  The men of his family had a long history of religious service, which influenced Dr. King’s educational goals.  He received his doctorate in 1953, and began servicing as a pastor himself, and committee member of the NAACP.  He championed civil rights, leading nonviolent demonstrations, boycotts, and traveling all over the United States, speaking about the injustices experienced by persons of color and the economically disadvantaged.  Dr. King is most known for his “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered to over 250,000 people in Washington, D.C. in 1963.  He was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace in 1964 at age 35, making him the youngest person to do so at the time.  He also spoke out about the Vietnam War, and racism and discrimination against African Americans.  Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968, where he planned to lead a protest in support of garbage workers that had gone on strike.

Former president Ronald Reagan signed a bill in 1983 after consistent requests from The King Center, making Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a federal holiday, however, all states had not adopted the day of celebration as an official holiday until 2000.  Former senators John Lewis and Harris Wooford co-authored legislation to create MLK Day of Service, which was approved in 1994.

As the country continues to struggle with racial inequality, discrimination, gender and sexual orientation bias, immigration issues, and other human rights concerns, many activists and volunteers are still fighting and carrying on the legacy of Dr. King.  Here are ways you can engage for MLK Day of Service:

Remember: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

—Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sources:

Martin Luther King Jr. Biographical

MLK Day

History of MLK Day of Service

World Human Rights Day

December 10 marks World Human Rights Day (HRD)!

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted on December 10, 1948, and the upholding and revisions of this document have been made by the United Nations (UN).  It aims to clearly define the rights of humans all over the world, as well as encourage people to stand up for the rights of others when they see violations of human rights, and harm being done to their fellow humans.

The theme for HRD 2020 is “Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights”.   In light of the global pandemic, it is even more imperative to highlight and fight for human rights while many are suffering, and struggling with their respective countries political and economic impacts on its citizens.  In the past, pioneers such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the current Dalai Lama have been recognized for their efforts for pervasive recognition of the rights of others.  Many such persons make efforts daily in support of this initiative; take the time to learn more about their contributions.

You do not have to be famous or a formal advocate to have an impact; treat others with, and expect them to treat you with dignity, respect, and common courtesy.  Speak up for injustices and wrongdoing that you see.  Contribute to local initiatives and committees that impact your neighborhoods and localities.  Learn about politicians and others in formal office and what they stand for, and fight for change where necessary.

You can learn more about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights available in over 500 languages.  It is also available in a  simplified version, in an illustrated booklet, and in sign languages.   Share on social media with hashtag #humanrightsday!

World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day! The focus is to unite collectively to prevent new HIV infections, support those with HIV/AIDS status, and celebrate the memory of those who have lost their lives to HIV-related illnesses.  World AIDS Day is the first global health day, and was founded in 1988.  According to the CDC in 2018 (most recent statistics available), nearly 38,000 new cases of HIV were diagnosed in the United States, with people ages 25 to 34 representing the highest age group of new diagnoses.

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks cells in the body that assist with fighting infections, and it makes a person more susceptible to other infections and illnesses.  HIV is spread through bodily fluids, such as those transferred through unprotected sexual activity with someone who is infected, through needle sharing, or other contacts where bodily fluids are exchanged.  If left untreated, HIV can lead to the disease AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).  There is currently no cure for HIV/AIDS, but through the use of antiretroviral therapy (ART), people are living longer, healthier lives, and limiting the exposure of HIV to their loved ones.  Also,  pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) can assist with limiting transmission through sex and substance use.

The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested.  You can utilize a home self-test, locate HIV testing centers and resources, learn about PrEP, and use prophylaxis during sexual activity as options to protect yourself from exposure to HIV.  You can participate in the Red Ribbon Project, and through the use of the following hashtags social media: #WorldAIDSDay #WAD2020 #StopHIVTogether #EndHIVEpidemic #HIV

Let’s do what we can to stop the spread of HIV together!

National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week

Annually, the week before Thanksgiving, National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is observed.  This week aims to highlight that many in the United States and nations around the world struggle with finding their next meal, and having to choose whether to eat, or having a place to stay.  This reality faces more of us than openly acknowledged;  as uncomfortable as it can be to confront this crisis, it is immensely more uncomfortable for those struggling with hunger and homelessness.

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness,  approximately 43 million people live at the poverty level in the United States, and over half a million people are homeless on any given day.  Additionally, 42 million Americans live with food insecurity.

Three ways that you can you help address hunger and homelessness in geographic areas nearest NOVA campuses are by educating yourself and others about available resources; volunteering; and sharing the initiatives highlighting these needs.

  1. Area agencies that address housing needs and food supports include (but are not limited to):

2. The following local agencies are seeking volunteers during this       awareness week:

3. Learn about the #shareyourtable initiative,  and share via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!

Further expand your awareness and advocacy efforts by learning about and sharing organizations not included here, and speak with your community members about what you can do in your neighborhood and community circle to address this issue impacting so many, especially with its amplification during this holiday season during a pandemic.

If you have questions about food or housing for yourself or another NOVA community member, please contact Financial Stability and Advocacy Centers at financialstability@nvcc.edu or The Office of Wellness and Mental Health at wellness@nvcc.edu.

Warmest wishes for a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Concluding Words of Gratitude

With the season of gratitude upon us at a time when we could all use a bit more kindness, the Office of Student Life and the Office of Wellness & Mental Health encouraged the NOVA community to share anonymous words of gratitude throughout the week of Nov. 2nd – 6th. Each submission answered the following question. “For what or whom are you feeling most grateful for and why?” With over 80 total submissions and many specific individuals named, we wanted to share out the meaningful responses and lift the spirits of our community. Take a few minutes and watch the concluding video here!