Spreading the Word on Mental Health

By Julie Bercik

Published May 15, 2023

Read Time: 2 mins


Breathe in and out, slowly. Read a book. Listen to music. Go on a walk.

These are all easy ways to combat stress and improve one’s mental health, a timely reminder during May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month.

But mental health is something that extends far beyond these 31 days. One in five U.S. adults experience mental illness each year, and one in six U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Experts say the most important thing to know is that it’s OK to ask for help.

“It’s OK not to be OK and I would hope that, over time, more and more people will become accepting and understand the importance of your mental wellness,” said Joni Schwager, executive director of the Staunton Farm Foundation

The foundation and Pittsburgh International Airport partnered last year to raise awareness about mental health, and Pittsburgh organizations and sports teams are joining in on the effort to destigmatize mental health. A $150,000 grant from the foundation is making it possible.

“The Staunton Farm Foundation gives behavioral grants in southwestern Pennsylvania, so it’s right here at home in our airport,” said Schwager. “I think it’s really terrific that the airport recognizes the importance of this.”

As travelers walk through the terminals at PIT, they’ll notice seven-foot towers with 55-inch monitors that play messages about mental health as well as offer resources for anyone seeking assistance. Videos include breathing exercises, sensory and emotional de-escalation techniques, and more.

“I’ve gotten emails from airport staff saying, ‘I was walking around the airport and there was somebody sitting on the ground writing down all the stuff that was being presented on the screen,’ and I think that’s great,” said Schwager.

The campaign, listed as one of the “Best New Airport Amenities of the Past Year” by the Points Guy website, is coming up on its one-year anniversary since launching in July 2022.

“It’s important that we provide trusted and reliable resources to travelers and team members alike. You never know who will hear or see a message that may change their life,” said Erin Miller, vice president, Human Capital & Airport Operations Communications at PIT. “With Staunton Farm Foundation’s generous donation, we can destigmatize mental health and deliver a message of hope to someone experiencing stress, anxiety, depression or addiction issues.”

Various Pittsburgh organizations, such as the University of Pittsburgh, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Jasiri X of 1Hood Media, UPStreet Pittsburgh and many more submitted content to help spread the message. Some PIT employees, who are veterans, have also recorded messages about the importance of mental health for veterans.

If you are a mental health professional or organization that would like to contribute to destigmatizing mental health, please contact Erin Miller at emiller@flypittsburgh.com for more information.

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