What does this bell mean to those who live with mental illness?
First, it is a reminder of how far the community has come advocating for the 42 million Americans who live with mental illness. Also, it’s a profound symbol of hope.
The Mental Health Bell
During the early days of mental health therapy, people with mental illnesses were frequently imprisoned in asylums with iron chains and shackles around their ankles and wrists. This harsh practice was eventually put to an end as a result of improved understanding and therapies.
Mental Health America sent out a request for discarded chains and shackles to asylums around the country in the early 1950s. On April 13, 1956, at the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, MD, Mental Health America melted down these inhumane bindings and recast them into a sign of hope: the Mental Health Bell.
The 300-pound Bell, which is now the symbol of Mental Health America and its affiliates, serves as a striking reminder that people with mental illnesses are still bound by invisible shackles of misunderstanding and discrimination. The Mental Health Bell is ringing today, signaling hope for better mental health and victory over mental diseases.
National mental health leaders and other notable individuals have rung the Bell over the years to signal continuous success in the fight against mental diseases.
Mission of MHANJ
Mental Health Association in New Jersey (MHANJ) strives for children and adults to achieve victory over mental health and substance use disorders through advocacy, education, training, and services. The organization serves as a hub for mental health services of all varieties.
- Promotes good mental health
- Reduces barriers that prevent people from seeking or offering help
- Builds a stronger base of support and network of services for people with mental health challenges
For many, this begins with MHANJ’s accessible, online screening found on their website.
History of MHANJ
MHANJ has a rich history of improving the lives of people with mental health and substance use disorders. This statewide non-profit organization, which recently celebrated 75 years of service, breaks down stigma and other barriers that prevent people from seeking treatment. It builds a strong base of support and network of services for people coping with behavioral health issues and their family members.
A consistent leader in advocacy and policy, they protect the rights of individuals and their family members, from all walks of life, cultures, and socioeconomic levels.
Building the Community
MHANJ’s has developed an active community of advocacy and resources within their social media channels. The organization offers multiple virtual gatherings every week, which attract a wide range of audiences. For example:
- Women of Color Discussion Group focuses on issues, coping strategies, & resources specifically relevant to Women of Color.
- Coping with Culture is an open group devoted to discussing the complexities of multicultural society–they focus on emotional wellbeing, mental health challenges, and other intersections of identity such as sexuality, gender, and more.
- Parenting discussion and support group connects parents with resources to navigate the current health crisis.
- Let’s dance! is a virtual dance party aimed at releasing emotions and feelings that impact physical wellbeing.
- Thankful Tuesdays are hosted by Deacon Laverne S. Williams and highlights relevant topics and insightful guest speakers.
The organization oversees numerous initiatives, including — but not limited to — the ones listed here:
- NJ Mental Health Cares
- NJ Disaster Response Crisis Counselor
- NJ Connect For Recovery
- NJ Self-Help Group Clearinghouse
Additionally, for the opioid crisis, the organization offers a secure hotline that connects addicts with licensed counselors.