Wearing Color for Mental Health Awareness

Wearing Color for Mental Health Awareness

I’m getting my color functions mixed up. People are telling me that pumpkins painted blue on a front porch at Halloween are a signal that the candy being distributed to trick-or-treaters is gluten free and additive free.

We all know that pink accessories on massive football players during the month of October indicates support for the battle against breast cancer, and the colors of the rainbow are a sign of support for same sex marriage. A black suit prompts the question, “Who died?”

Purple and white means “Go Trevecca.” Purple and gold means “Go Olivet.” (I suppose you might say they are royal and rich; we are royal and pure.) Lighting your house or landscape with green bulbs means that you support veterans.

But I’m also hearing that wearing green is a signal that you support mental health awareness.

Even though we observed Mental Illness Awareness Week in October and Mental Health Month will come around again in May, I have been trying to wear green outside of the designated “observances” because I think mental illness is the new plight facing us.

Just this week, we experienced yet another mass shooting in the United States—the deadliest since the mass shooting almost three years ago at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. While initial news reports of the San Bernandino crime don’t necessarily indicate that the perpetrators suffered from mental illness, we do know that it is often at the heart of most of these horrific events. In the days and weeks to come, we will analyze this shooting as we have the others before it, which will inevitably pit the gun control people against the amendment rights folk. And both groups, despite their many differences of opinion, will usually agree that people who are mentally or emotionally unstable have no business buying, owning, or toting guns.

I’m also seeing a dramatic uptick of mental health issues hitting the college campuses of America. The coping skills of college youth have taken a dramatic downturn with all the helicopter parenting that has been going on. Rather than coping with the pressure of academic and social demands, students are panicking, calling home, and watching their frantic parents try to work through systems hundreds of miles away, while they do little to take advantage of the counseling program two buildings away from their dorm.

Ask any college dean of students. Suicide attempts are up. Cutting is back. Over-medicating is a reality. Alcohol abuse is in vogue. Unhealthy dating behaviors are occurring. Sexual violence is on the rise. Eating disorders are common. Freaking out is commonplace. Escape mechanisms are popular. Blaming someone else is standard. Lawsuits are being threatened. Making someone else responsible is a sport. Mental illness is taxing our operational capacity as a society, and the college campus is the new lab of observation.

I serve a Christian university in the heart of Nashville. We have a School of Graduate Counseling and also offer a PhD in Counseling. When I hang around these wonderful servants of human brokenness, I am humbled by the skill they bring to their daily encounters. Many of them serve in our counseling center in their internships. They love our students and employees. They make our campus a healing place for many who bring the pain of the world with them. I have come to believe that the next career in the trenches of human brokenness may be the trained counselor who dedicates his or her life to the very people who can no longer navigate the pressure-filled, confusing, non-sense of the world affecting their mind and body.

So today, this week, and the weeks after, I’m wearing green.

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