ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and on May 4, local leaders and healthcare workers gathered to spread awareness about the importance of mental health and eliminate the stigma behind it.

According to United Way of Roanoke Valley, more than fifty million Americans are affected by mental illness and 1 out of 5 of adults experience a mental health condition each year.

Healthy Roanoke Valley, a division of United Way of Roanoke Valley launched its “Go Green” collaborative campaign with its community healthcare partners.

“The purpose of this campaign is to reduce stigma, raise awareness about resources and strategies to support mental health,” said Leslie Clark the Director of Family Health Strategies for United Way of Roanoke Valley and the Backbone Lead for Healthy Roanoke Valley.

Erynn Miller a Community Health Educator for Carillion Clinic Community Involvement said that this partnership is important because it shows mental illness is a serious health condition.

“The prevalence is similar to those of cancer diagnosis, but we treat them so differently. All of our services, that we offer at community health and outreach, are free to the public and they are one hundred percent voluntary. We have peer recovery services and community health worker services offered through our community-based workforce,” said Miller.

Brian Bailey, a Community Health Worker for Bradley Free Clinic, has struggled with addiction and mental health issues. He said he was able to develop a support network in Roanoke through multiple resources and counseling services that helped him recover.

“Most people don’t even know how to approach just day-to-day situate life situations because they’re, you know, withheld by their mental health illness, so I think you know just being a person of kindness and compassion and humility, you know, you can really go a long way in helping people just overall with their own personal mental health issues,” said Bailey.

He added that because of his experience, he is now able to continue to work on his own mental health while helping others in the community through Bradley Free Clinic Behavioral Health Wing.

Healthcare workers also stressed that if you are going through a mental health crisis, do not be afraid to ask for help and it is okay to not be okay.

Healthcare Partners:

Healthy Roanoke Valley

Family Services of Roanoke Valley

Bradley Free Clinic

Blue Ridge Behavioral Health

Carilion Clinic Community Involvement