Mental health is a vital aspect of our overall well-being, yet it is often stigmatized and not given the attention it deserves. This is where Mental Health Awareness Month comes into play. Observed in the month of May since 1949, it is an opportunity for organizations, groups, and individuals to raise awareness and educate the public about mental health conditions. In this blog post, we will discuss the importance of Mental Health Awareness Month and how you can get involved.
Stigma, misinformation, and disinformation all create substantial barriers to raising mental health awareness. Stigma, in particular, is the most problematic of these. It is a label placed upon people to set them apart, to make them feel ashamed, disgraced, or embarrassed about who they are, often because of factors beyond their control. Due to this stigma, people are more likely to discuss physical health conditions rather than mental health conditions with others.
Similarly, they are also more assertive in seeking care for physical ailments than they are for mental health disorders. Surveys show that the average time between the onset of mental health symptoms and the decision to seek care for mental health conditions can be a year or more. Making a difference in the lives of people suffering from mental illness becomes quite difficult when such a delay exists between symptoms and interventions. As with physical health conditions, early diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions lead to better outcomes.
Despite the barriers that exist, all hope is not lost. Increasingly, key stakeholders are having impactful conversations on ways to improve the mental health of Americans. Campaigns such as Mental Health Awareness Month are playing a great role in important mental health issues such as awareness and access. Mental Health Awareness Month is a great time to take part in this cause by being an ambassador for mental health.
Each of us can play a part, whether big or small, in raising mental health awareness and thereby decreasing stigma. Here are some ways you can help raise mental health awareness:
Volunteer at or make a monetary donation to Mental Health America (MHA) or National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). These organizations are dedicated to supporting people with mental health conditions and advocating for mental health awareness.
Be supportive of a friend or loved one who is struggling with a mental health condition. Listening, showing empathy, and offering to help can make a significant difference in someone’s life.
Help raise mental health awareness on social media by engaging with platforms that support mental health causes. Share posts about mental health or share your own story about how mental health has impacted your life.
Stop the stigma
Pay attention to your language. Avoid language that is negative (e.g. “she is bipolar,” “that’s schizo,” “they are crazy or psycho”). Using stigmatizing language only perpetuates the stigma around mental health conditions.
Learn about mental health. Listen to a TED talk or podcast on a mental health topic. Read a book or blog about mental health or self-help issues. These are great ways to not only learn about mental health but also to improve your mental well-being.
Mental health awareness is crucial for us to create a more inclusive and supportive society. By taking part in Mental Health Awareness Month this May, we can all play a part in raising mental health awareness and decreasing stigma. Whether through volunteering, donating, being supportive of loved ones, or educating ourselves, we can make a positive impact on the mental health of those around us.