May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
Why is there a need to raise awareness about mental health? Because there’s still so much that’s misunderstood about it by the general public, and so many people that need help won’t seek it because of the stigma surrounding it.
The month of May allows people the opportunity to learn more about mental health issues and how they can help their loved ones better cope with their condition.
Additionally, it helps those with mental illness feel like they are heard and understood.
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May is Mental Health Awareness Month: Why Such an Observance Is Necessary
Despite the fact that there’s more information and resources available today than ever before regarding mental health conditions, there’s still a lot that people don’t know about.
A lack of understanding by many has led to the stigma about the topic of mental health. Some people view mental health conditions as a mental or moral weakness, yet that is far from the truth.
Just as it is essential for people to take care of their general physical health – especially if they have a particular illness or condition – the same is true regarding mental health.
Everyone should be concerned about the state of their own mental health, and no one should be looked down on for doing so.
Mental Health Awareness Month was officially established in 2014 by the Obama Administration.
However, other organizations have observed May as Mental Health Month since 1949.
The goal of this awareness is to improve the compassion and empathy of the general public regarding mental health and illness. It’s important for everyone to learn how to take care of their own mental health, as well as how to engage with, and help those who live with mental illness issues daily.
How People Can Get Involved During Mental Health Month
The first thing a person can do to help reduce the stigma with regard to mental illness during Mental Health Month is to educate themselves about the topic.
A good starting point is identifying common mental health conditions. Some of these can include:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Anxiety disorders
- Panic attacks
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Eating disorders
- Substance use and addiction
When more people learn about these illnesses, as well as the signs and symptoms for each, it increases the number of resources available to help or encourage others to seek help.
There are many tools and techniques for successfully coping with mental health issues, including:
- Counseling and therapy
- Animal companionship
Mental Health America offers mental health screening tools on their website that are available to everyone to use for a variety of issues including anxiety, depression, bipolar, and many others.
The website also has online toolkits that are free to download.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website has a list of ways for people to share their own mental health experiences, information about where to find a NAMI Walks Team, and partners and mental health month events around the country.
Practice Self-Care for Mental Health
Mental Health Awareness month is also an excellent way to ensure that people start implementing regular self-care strategies in their lives, whether they’ve been diagnosed with an illness or not.
Everyone should understand that self-care is not the same thing as being selfish, and is in fact essential to flourishing from an overall health standpoint.
Self-care practices that can help with mental illness, as well as a person’s general health and wellbeing include:
- Creating a better work-life balance
- Incorporating some humor into everyday life
- Understanding the importance of getting support when needed
- Allowing for important “me time”
- Spending time with family and friends
- Practicing meditation, mindulfness, and breathing techniques
- Getting daily exercise like walking, biking, swimming, or yoga
- Eating well-balanced and healthy meals and snacks
Mental Health Month Helps Raise Awareness so People Get the Help and Care They Need
There are too many people that need help, but go without it because they fear letting others know they might have a problem.
Others don’t even know they need help, because they lack the basic understanding of how to identify mental illness.
Regardless of the reasons, the fact remains that too many people avoid seeking help and are living their lives without the care they need.
If more people offer their support to people with mental illnesses, it ensures that the those who need help might actually get it. Resources are available to everyone in need, even to those with low-to-no income.
The hope is that each year, as more people observe Mental Health Awareness Month, those who need help will receive it, and find the strength to live life to their full potential.
Photo by Sydney Sims