1 Million Mohawks Challenge Kicks Off Mental Health Awareness Month

By Victoria Kim 05/01/18

The goal of the campaign is to open up a dialogue about mental health issues and knock down the walls of stigma.

mohawk and brain illustration

The 1 Million Mohawks challenge is officially underway for the month of May, aka Mental Health Awareness Month, to spark dialogue about mental health.

The unique campaign challenges people to rock a ‘hawk—whether they shave, spike up, or dye it on—and share it on social media.

The goal of the campaign is to shed light on mental health issues by putting a fun spin on the oft-avoided topic. Participants may choose to challenge “up to 6 other people, organizations, bands or salons to do the same,” according to a press release by The You Rock Foundation, one organization behind the #1MillionMohawks challenge.

The first mohawk challenge launched last May. But the music community has lost some iconic artists in the year since, highlighting the need for more dialogue about mental health.

“We lost some amazing people (Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, Tom Petty) this last year to hidden mental health/substance use issues. There are millions of music fans across the globe who are looking for more ways to see and connect with each other, support each other and share their experience,” said Joseph Penola, founder and executive director of You Rock. “Using your hair to talk about the brain beneath it is one of many ways we can knock down the walls of stigma and get to know each other.”

One in 4 people suffer from a mental illness, said Penola. And about 8 million live with both a mental disorder and a substance use disorder. “That’s a huge overlap that we really want to address,” he said.

Last year, recovery advocate Ryan Hampton took on the challenge by spray painting a blue mohawk on his short hair while video-chatting with former Jackass and professional skateboarder Brandon Novak via Facebook Live.

Novak shared that he was once homeless and hooked on heroin, thought to be a lost cause. But he’s now going on 3 years of sobriety, and says that recovery was all worth it in the end.

“I was homeless shooting heroin two years ago and today I’m doing yoga and running three miles at the gym,” he told Hampton at the time. “Sobriety has given me everything that drugs and alcohol promised. That psychic change has taken place.”

“Addiction is not a death sentence,” Novak added. ”As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late.”

People have already begun posting their mohawks of all shapes and sizes on social media. To join the conversation, post a photo on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook and use the hashtag #1MillionMohawks in the caption.

The 1 Million Mohawks for Mental Health challenge is also organized by Helios Recovery, an addiction recovery empowerment organization, and RISE TOGETHER, a youth prevention and empowerment program.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr