Mental Health Action Day: Small steps to support your mental health
This Thursday, May 18th, marks the third annual Mental Health Action Day around the world. YouTube is joining MTV Entertainment Studios and TaskForce to encourage people to dedicate one hour this week to support their mental health, and to take to YouTube Shorts to inspire others to make time for seemingly small steps that can make a difference using #MentalHealthAction.
I had the pleasure to sit down with Simon Isaacs, CEO of TaskForce, an organization that drives social change and awareness on key issues like mental health, to talk more about Mental Health Action Day, what it means for him, and what others can do to participate.
I want YouTube viewers and creators to dedicate one hour on Mental Health Action Day to take that first mental health action ... Post using #MentalHealthAction and we can build a swell of support that shows how easy — and impactful — taking action can be.” Simon Isaacs CEO, Taskforce
How did Mental Health Action Day come about, and what impact have you seen over the years?
Simon Isaacs: I have spent many years working on mental health issues, mostly focused on raising awareness and addressing stigma. The pandemic underscored the need to do more, and to really help people take action. From my own experience, I know that the hardest step is the first one — getting over the fear and procrastination. Helping people take that step forward, together, is really the idea behind Mental Health Action Day.
I wanted to create momentum that went beyond awareness and instead encourage people to take that first step that maybe they have been putting off - making time for that first therapy appointment, or reaching out to a friend you’ve been meaning to speak to, or walking into that first recovery meeting.
MTV has been an incredible partner to bring this idea to life — this is our 3rd annual Mental Health Action Day, and we now have over 2,000 partners from 32 countries who are collectively reaching billions of people to help shift mental health culture from awareness to action.
What do you want YouTube viewers and creators to do for Mental Health Action Day?
Simon Isaacs: I want YouTube viewers and creators to dedicate one hour on Mental Health Action Day to take that first mental health action! It could be scheduling or holding that first therapy appointment, going for a walk without a phone, or calling a friend to check-in.
Whatever you have been putting off for your mental health — Mental Health Action Day is the day to take action and do it.
I hope that their actions can inspire others, and that they share their journey with their community (whatever form that takes). Post using #MentalHealthAction and we can build a swell of support that shows how easy — and impactful — taking action can be.
What are you doing this year to support your own mental health for Mental Health Action Day? And what are some creative examples you’ve seen from previous years?
Simon Isaacs: While I do a lot for my mental health, in the spirit of Mental Health Action Day and taking that "first step," I am going to try something I have been personally avoiding and spend an hour writing in a gratitude journal. I've long known that this practice is something that is effective for others but I have been avoiding it.
An example from last year that was really exciting to me was when Citrone 33 brought together the Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates for their Pittsburgh Youth Mental Health Coalition. They hosted an in-person event dedicated to mental health conversations, focused on the sports community, which is often left out of mainstream discussions about mental health.
This year, we are asking everyone to dedicate one hour to yourself, your loved ones, or your community, and we are already seeing a lot of community events planned. For example, The Confess Project is hosting a Healing Hair Battle where cosmetology students will be challenged to create hairstyles and learn skills to become mental health advocates in the Black community. And Sounds of Saving will be bringing Mental Health Action Day programming to high schools in the outer boroughs of NYC, specifically for at-risk populations, where musicians will share their stories of perseverance and connect with the students.
Millions of people come to YouTube for information and community when it comes to health topics. How do you think online video has changed or influenced the conversation about mental health?
Simon Isaacs: YouTube creators have both laid the groundwork for mental health awareness and de-stigmatization and have been essential in guiding people with tips for ‘how-to,’ whether through yoga, meditation, or journaling. Knowing that 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year (CDC), being able to connect to others going through something similar on YouTube has made discussing mental health accessible to millions more people.
Digital and online videos have taken the discussion of mental health out of the dark. Now the challenge is to help people take the next step, whatever it looks like for them.
What is one thing you want people to know about Mental Health Action Day?
Simon Isaacs: I think this moment of taking one hour for yourself can show people that even committing to one seemingly small act of self-care can make a huge difference in your overall outlook, your energy, and your mood. And by being in tune with our minds and our bodies, we can improve our relationships with ourselves and with our loved ones — because the truth remains that you cannot tend to the needs of others unless you are taking care of yourself.
And while we all lead busy lives, my hope is that perhaps this singular act feels impactful and easy enough that it turns into a monthly practice, a weekly practice, or even a daily practice. I’d love for people to be able to look back in a year’s time and feel great about how that one hour they took for themselves spurred a whole new outlook on mental health, mindfulness, and self-love.