ST. CLOUD -- May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and a campaign is working to normalize the mental health issues experienced by many people throughout the country.

Dave Hartford, Director of the Behavioral Health Care Center at CentraCare in St. Cloud, joined WJON's Jim Maurice Thursday to talk about the Make It OK campaign.

"When somebody has a mental health condition, all of a sudden the room goes quiet," Hartford says. "One example we like to use is that when somebody ends up in the hospital for some kind of acute condition, flowers go to the room and the community pulls together."

"But when that happens in a psychiatric unit, there are no flowers, there's no gathering around to help support that individual -- yet it's an individual who really needs support."

Reports say most people struggling with mental health will wait 10 years before seeking help. The Make It OK campaign aims to lessen the stigma attached to mental illness by encouraging acceptance with open discussions about the issue.

"Historically, people have tried to not think about it as if they're brain is [always] the same," Hartford says. "In reality, it's a very complex organ that experiences difficulties like any other organ in the body and it's important to have good care for that."

Hartford says the best way to help those struggling with mental health issues is to treat it like any other illness and be accepting and supportive, rather than dismissive or insulting.

For more tips on how to help normalize mental illness, check out the Make It OK website and if you are experiencing mental health issues, you are encouraged to seek help.

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