What is Mental Health Awareness Month?

It’s officially May which means it’s time to show lots of love and supportive efforts for Mental Health Awareness Month. But, what is Mental Health Awareness Month and how does one support it? And what if you don’t actually have a mental illness but still want to partake in spreading awareness?

Let’s find out.

What is Mental Health Awareness Month?

If you have a green ribbon, wear it during May to support Mental Health Awareness Month. The 2022 May theme is “Together for Mental Health.” The ups and downs of life in the last few years have proven that we can do much more together than alone. Even when we were forced to stay home, people found creative ways to be together. There is power in numbers.

It’s time to use our power to advocate for mental health support for everyone who needs it, continue eliminating the stigma around mental illness, and improve the services available. It starts with understanding more about mental health.

What is Mental Health?

Everyone has mental health, defined by the World Health Organization as “a state of physical, mental, and social well-being.” This doesn’t necessarily mean everyone who does not have a mental health disorder is in a state of well-being, however. Mental health is based on how well you can function and contribute to society, maintain positive relationships, and cope with life’s stressors.

How Many People Have a Mental Health Disorder?

Everyone is affected by mental health. If you don’t personally have a mental health disorder, you know someone who does. It may be a coworker, family member, or acquaintance. According to Mental Health America, 50 million Americans have a mental illness, most of which have an anxiety disorder. Mental health disorders that follow anxiety include substance misuse and addiction, bipolar disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, and suicidal thoughts.

Why Is There a Stigma About Mental Health?

Stigmas occur when society places a negative perspective, including shame or disapproval, on something. Stigmas are usually very wrong and are based on a lack of understanding. They are judgments or stereotypes that can be harmful, especially when it prevents someone from seeking available help.

In mental health, having a disorder has been associated with being weak, lazy, crazy, violent, low functioning, and mentally insane. None of these are true, however.

Effects of Stigma

If a person does not seek treatment due to stigmas, their mental health symptoms can worsen and eventually interfere with how they function personally, professionally, and socially. They may also internalize negative feelings of shame, blame, or guilt.

People may feel like they cannot be part of a social group and withdraw. They may feel hopeless and have suicidal thoughts.

One factor that leads to stigmas is also a factor that can be easily overcome, spreading awareness.

How to Spread Awareness of Mental Health

There isn’t a specific formula or guideline for spreading awareness about mental health. The most important thing to remember is to spread the truth about why someone has a mental illness and that help is available. Below are some ideas to help you get started.

1. Spread Awareness to All Age Groups

Awareness must begin with children and adolescents. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in six children between two and eight have a mental illness. In addition, among adolescents, over 15% have a major depressive disorder, and nearly 37% have persistent sadness. Even more troubling, close to 19% have considered suicide.

Age-appropriate materials are available online for preschoolers through high school and college. You can reach out to children by supplying schools or libraries with teaching materials or information packets. Or you can be a guest speaker, lead a workshop, host a community event, or create a social media page.

Provide a place where people can share their stories and prove that no matter your age, mental health treatment is available, and it works.

2. Spread Awareness Through Politics

Mental health is a big issue on Capitol Hill. Work with your local politicians to create bills that support reducing stigmas and spreading awareness. Change policies that are outdated and don’t apply to today’s society’s gender, race, ethnic, or religious needs.

3. Spread Awareness in Conversations

You likely encounter numerous people every day, including coworkers, supervisors, family, neighbors, friends, ride-share drivers, food deliverers, and more. Come up with a simple statement to share with people throughout the day about the benefits of mental health treatment.

If you don’t want to share in person, use your social media platforms to teach others about mental illness and break the stigma. Your statement may lead to a bigger conversation about mental health. If so, tell them about Mental Health Awareness Month and give them ideas on how they can participate. Just a few words can make a huge difference.

4. Keep Learning While Spreading Awareness

Just like everything else, mental health issues are constantly changing. Policies, diagnoses, medications, and even how treatments are delivered. For example, the pandemic led to a significant change in teletherapy and now provides more access to individuals who once could not see treatment. Online group and individual counseling, medication management, support groups, and family therapies can be done from the comfort of your home now.

You must know the latest information on signs, symptoms, causes, and treatments when spreading awareness.

5. Share Your Story to Spread Awareness

If you, or someone you know, has a mental health disorder, talk about it. Sharing your story is one of the best ways to break down stigmas. It provides an opportunity for people to meet someone in person who is proof that all the stigmas are false. You are not crazy, lazy, or weak. You are not violent, and you are anything but low functioning. Hearing stories of survival offers hope to others. Sharing your account can be done in churches, local businesses, hospitals, treatment centers, libraries, and street corners. There are no rules.

If you don’t like talking in front of others, you can share your story on social media, write a book, film a video, or create art to express yourself.

Don’t Forget About Yourself

Finally, don’t forget to take care of yourself physically and mentally. You can’t deliver messages of hope if you are not feeling well. Start this month off with some self-care and then go out and teach others to do the same.