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Breaking the Stigma

We are living in a stressful time with worries about our health, the health of our loved ones, our jobs, the economy and whether the healthcare system is prepared to handle the pandemic. That’s on top the stress we experience in “normal” times like relationship problems, financial difficulties and the loss of a family member.


In the current environment, social distancing is helping to slow the spread of the coronavirus has it’s also forced us into isolation where just turning on the latest news can make us feel even more anxious. No wonder half the people in one survey said that worry and stress related to the pandemic is affecting their mental health.


The National Alliance on Mental Illness tells us that one in five adults in the U.S. experiences some form of mental illness, everything from schizophrenia to bipolar disorder to anxiety and depression to name just a few. These 44 million individuals are people we know–friends, loved ones, neighbors, coworkers and the person next to us in line at the grocery store. Mental illness is diagnosed more frequently than heart disease and diabetes. The issue touches all of us, directly or indirectly.


Now more than ever, in this time of social distancing, it’s the time to break the stigma around mental health.


Recently, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield pledged $100,000 to NAMI and joined with them to recognize National Mental Health Month. To drive home this year’s theme “You are not Alone,” we launched an internal campaign to raise awareness and educate our 2,000 Colorado associates about the importance of self-care.


Together, with our Anthem colleagues from across the country, we compiled “me minutes.” The concept was simple: take a few minutes for yourself every day and do something that offers a healthy break, such as taking a walk, exercising, meditating, connecting with a friend or just getting outside to enjoy the spring.


Basketball star Magic Johnson joined in and reminded us that we’re in this together. In a taped video message, Billie Jean King told us that if we want to be our best, we have to take care of ourselves. Meanwhile, Anthem associates shared their activities with their co-workers and on social media under the hashtag #meminutes. On May 30, Anthem participated in NAMI’s virtual walk, again helping to raise awareness and raise money. And by the end of National Mental Health Month, Anthem associates across the country had logged more than 500 million #meminutes.


Self-care is not a panacea. Mental illness is complex, and often requires treatment by a mental health professional. Still, during these challenging times remembering simple things like #meminutes is important to our health–physically and mentally.


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