Professional football players react to the stress of not living up to fans’ expectations. College students experience anxiety over their studies. Frequent business travelers feel depressed about being away from their loved ones.
Mental health issues affect people from all walks of life. In Pennsylvania alone, more than 1 million adults have a mental health condition, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. As part of World Mental Health Day on Oct. 10, some notable Pittsburgh institutions have joined forces to raise awareness of mental health issues and mobilize efforts in support of mental health.
Pittsburgh International Airport recruited Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool, the University of Pittsburgh and NAMI as part of its campaign to increase awareness of mental health among airline passengers.
“We are proudly taking the initiative to increase awareness of mental health and encourage our staff and passengers to make their well-being a priority,” said Lisa Naylor, PIT Executive Vice President and Chief Human Capital Officer.
“Conveying hopeful messages along with important resources and information throughout our airport is the perfect way to keep mental health top of mind for all.”
Campaign grows stronger
The campaign was funded with a $150,000 grant from Pittsburgh-based Staunton Farm Foundation. Since then, influential advocates in the community have joined the cause, including the Pittsburgh Penguins and hip hop artist and activist Jasiri X.
One of the public service messages playing in the airport is from Claypool, who became involved after the April death of Dwayne Haskins, a Steelers quarterback killed in a traffic incident in Florida.
Claypool was a guest on I Am Athlete, a weekly podcast, where he spoke about the final moments he had with Haskins before the tragedy and the toll it took on him. The receiver also opened up about his sister having mental health problems, which led to her suicide at 17.
The University of Pittsburgh is also a partner on the campaign. Students from around the world travel to the region to attend universities, and some experience an increase in stress and anxiety and lack adequate self-care, according to the university.
The outreach efforts will include videos from Pitt professors and staff members, including James Gallaher Jr., vice chancellor for the Office of Human Resources, and John Wallace, vice provost for Faculty Diversity and Development.
The university wants to remind students in all higher education institutions to take care of their emotional and social well-being.
Helping travelers cope
Travelers have faced increased stress since business travel began to pick up after virtually shutting down during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Daniel Floyd, director of manufacturing technology at paint and coatings giant PPG, is a business traveler who has been flying out of PIT since 2010. Floyd said he flies multiple times per month and often departs at a moment’s notice. Travel can be tough, he said.
What stresses Floyd most is “missing events at home or having to reschedule personal things,” he said. Mental health symptoms he experiences include depression or frustration.
To reach frequent flyers like Floyd, PIT’s campaign includes NAMI, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.
“NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania is very excited to join Pittsburgh International Airport’s mental health awareness campaign,” said CEO Christine Michaels. “This mental health awareness campaign will reach thousands of passengers who are traveling through the airport daily.”
The content from NAMI includes a video from Michaels delivering mental health resources travelers can access by scanning the QR code on the screen.
PIT’s campaign also includes local community advocates such as Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, UpStreet Pittsburgh, and Brookline Teen Outreach.