Awareness Months: A love-hate relationship

Screenshot 2018-11-11 at 5.00.11 PMWhat do you think of when you hear the term “awareness month?”

Colorful ribbons? Charity walks? Fundraisers? Pink football jerseys?

In some ways, I think awareness months are great. They recognize conditions that are rarely cared about by those who don’t have them. They are times when people come together and show support for others who are sometimes like them, and often times not. They inspire people to donate to important causes. And they help people realize that they aren’t alone.

But when October ends and November begins, we shed our pink shirts and pull out the purple. We throw out the pamphlets from last week’s charity event and start planning our outfit for the one next Saturday. We move on from October’s cause(s) and onto November’s.

And I get it. I get that we can’t possibly support every cause, attend every event, donate to every foundation, and spread awareness about everything all the time. I get that when October ends, we do have to shed the pink and move on with our lives. And I get that one month of advocacy is better than nothing.

But what I don’t get is why we send the message that recognizing a cause for one month each year is enough.

It’s not.

May is IBD awareness month. But my condition is chronic. And yes, one month of support is great because there are many conditions that receive hardly any attention. But when that month ends, I’m still the same person. I still have the same disease. And I still want people to care as much as they do in May.

Awareness months are great because they bring people together. But more often then not, they don’t keep those people together. They are a glimpse into a life where people truly support and advocate for others that they might not even know. But then that glimpse is over and it feels like it will be forever before people will care again.

The causes we support during awareness months are causes that affect people every single day. And those people deserve more than just one month of support. 

So here’s my idea: we keep awareness months the same as they’ve always been. But during the other 11 months, we don’t turn a blind eye to the struggles of other people. So when May ends and June begins, we can still put away our purple. But we can’t stop caring. We can’t stop supporting. We can’t stop advocating. Because on June 1st people are still fighting IBD. Every day of every year people are dealing with something, and every day of every year those people deserve support. So we can move on from one charity event to another. But we can’t forget about the people who we raise awareness for. They don’t get to pack up their disease and wait for next year’s fundraiser; they need our support and our understanding all the time. 

We are all dealing with something. And even though we don’t all have an awareness month, or week, or day that recognizes our struggles, it doesn’t mean that they don’t matter. So the point I’m trying to make is that although awareness months do raise awareness, we don’t need matching shirts, fundraisers, and charity walks to show people that we care. We don’t need to wait around for a specific month or week to show support. All we need is to be mindful of what other’s might be going through and be there for the people around us as much as we can, whether it’s awareness month or not.