The mental health awareness campaign wants participants to use the attention-grabbing hairstyle to talk about the brain underneath it.
In keeping with the theme of Mental Health Awareness Month, mental health and recovery advocates are getting behind the 1 Million Mohawks for Mental Health campaign—a collaboration between organizations such as the You Rock Foundation and Rise Together which encourages people to rock a mohawk for the month of May to spark important conversations about mental health.
“1 in 4 people suffer from a mental illness. And 8 million people have both a mental disorder and a substance use disorder,” said You Rock founder and executive director Joseph Penola, a suicide attempt survivor with a history of battling depression. “That’s a huge overlap that we really want to address.”
The idea is to use the attention your hair gets to talk about the brain underneath it.
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 on Facebook Live.
Novak, who also appears in Hampton’s The Voices Project, joined in on the #1MillionMohawkChallenge by trying to style his own mohawk. His long hair kept falling over, no thanks to his army of hair products, but viewers got the message: let’s get talking. “I believe mental health and addiction go hand in hand,” he said. “They’re both diseases. Just like addiction with mental health, there is a solution. There is a life beyond mental diseases and diseases of addiction.”
Novak, who is a recovering heroin user, talked about life as a teenage pro skater and ending up homeless and hooked on heroin. “When people finally realized what was happening with me, I was already too far gone to be saved in their eyes,” he told Hampton. “Before I knew it, I had given my skateboarding career to heroin, I had given my family to heroin.”
Novak, also known for being a part of MTV’s Jackass crew, is now about two years sober. “I was homeless shooting heroin two years ago and today I’m doing yoga and running three miles at the gym,” he said. “Sobriety has given me everything that drugs and alcohol promised. That psychic change has taken place.”
“Addiction is not a death sentence,” he added. “As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late.”
He’s also close with fellow skater and TV personality Bam Margera—known for his reality TV show and Jackass spinoff Viva La Bam—which Novak says makes it hard to see Bam go through his own struggles. Novak credits Bam with giving him a second chance at life; he personally paid for him to go to rehab on more than one occasion. “He never turned his back on me,” said Novak. “So to see him struggling, it really strikes a chord with me.”
Margera spoke with Jenkem magazine about his drinking problem in March. “I was sober for a while, then once I picked up a drink again, I was like ‘Wow this is a real problem.’ I would be a dick and give Novak shit for not being able to stop using heroin, but I couldn’t put this fucking bottle down.”
Other campaigns to promote mental health awareness this month include What Would I Tell My Younger Self?—a project that enlists famous faces and asks them: what would you tell your younger self about growing up with a mental health or learning disorder?