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RtoR Mental Health Awareness Month: Beyond Awareness to Pride in Self and Others

cinco de mayo salsa dancers

These days, you could be forgiven for thinking that Cinco de Mayo is a new holiday celebrating Americans’ freedom to drink Mexican beer and enjoy delicious Mexican-American cuisine.  If you think it is the celebration of Mexican Independence Day, you would also be wrong.  In fact, the 5th of May is not even a national holiday in Mexico. What this date actually stands for, in Mexico and in the United States, is a celebration of Mexican pride.

In the Mexican state of Puebla, May 5th, the “Day of the Battle of Puebla,” commemorates a symbolically important Mexican victory over a much larger French occupying force on May 5, 1862.  At this battle, a Mexican army of 4,000 defeated a better-equipped force of more than twice that size, disrupting a near perfect 50-year run of military victories for the French.  As Time magazine noted, “The Puebla victory came to symbolize unity and pride for what seemed like a Mexican David defeating a French Goliath.”  It also marks the last time a European force invaded the Americas – a victory not just for Mexico, but for the United States and both American continents.

In 2005, the U.S. Congress issued a Resolution calling on the President to issue a proclamation for “Cinco de Mayo” to be observed in the United States with appropriate ceremonies and activities.  In this way, the 5th of May came to represent not just Mexican pride, but the rich cultural heritage and contribution of Mexican-Americans in the United States.

In my blog post of May 1 kicking off Mental Health Awareness Month, I described how an observance that had been around for more than 60 years was finally given formal recognition by our government in 2013 with a proclamation by the President.  The purpose of this observance is to bring awareness to the plight of millions of Americans who face the daily challenges of living with mental illness, often in a courageous manner.

It is wonderful that mental health is finally getting the attention it deserves during the month of May.  But there is something about this public awareness campaign that doesn’t go far enough.  The activities of Mental Health Awareness Month have focused the nation’s attention on a much misunderstood problem, dispelling some of the ignorance, fear, and prejudice encountered by those who live with it.  But wouldn’t it be great if we also had a day to celebrate pride in the achievements and rich contributions of people who have been challenged by mental health concerns: great Americans such as Buzz Aldrin and Abraham Lincoln, and the many ordinary people who are just as great to the families and friends who love them and watch them struggle every day?

Now that we have a whole month devoted to mental health awareness, how about adding a day just for pride?  May 5th is already taken.  Are there any suggestions for another day this month?  Or maybe you would like to share a victory story – symbolic or otherwise – of someone you know who has triumphed over a mental health problem, or maybe just persevered through the daily challenges of living with a mental illness.  Please share your thoughts and stories in the comments section of this page.


Throughout the month of May, RtoR.org will release a daily Post
of the Day in observance of Mental Health Awareness Month


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Jay Boll, Editor in Chief www.rtor.org