Each May, Mental Health Month is observed in the US in order to raise awareness about mental health topics by telling personal stories, resources, and the latest research. The month is intended to draw attention to all kinds of mental health conditions, and anxiety is one of these. While there’s no official month for anxiety awareness at this time, there are plenty of actions you can take to learn more about and promote awareness of anxiety disorders during Mental Health Month and year-round.
What Is Anxiety?
The American Psychological Association defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by apprehension and somatic symptoms of tension in which an individual anticipates impending danger, catastrophe, or misfortune”. While many of us may experience moments of stress and tension from time to time, clinical anxiety refers to such symptoms that are long-term, persistent, and that may be debilitating.
Anxiety disorders are a category of diagnosable, clinical mental illnesses that can consistently impact a person’s daily functioning and often require treatment—which usually includes some form of psychotherapy, sometimes in conjunction with medication. There are various types of anxiety disorders, such as:
Generalized anxiety disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
How Common Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is one of the most common categories of mental illness. Globally, an estimated 275 million people live with an anxiety disorder according to the World Economic Forum.
This translates to anywhere from 2.5–6.5% of the population per country worldwide living with anxiety. Given its prevalence, anxiety is a key point of discussion and research among mental health professionals during Mental Health Month and year-round.
While many people experience symptoms of an anxiety disorder, a large portion of them will never seek or receive treatment due to availabilty, financial barriers, stigma, or other reasons. The Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA) estimates that only 36.9% of people with anxiety disorders seek treatment. Even as anxiety and related topics become more common in everyday conversations and mainstream media and discourse, many people remain hesitant to open up about mental health challenges and seek the help they deserve. Given these statistics, the need for mental health advocacy, anxiety awareness, and support for those with anxiety disorders is significant.
Related Mental Health Awareness Months
In the US, there isn’t an “official” month for anxiety awareness. However, there are several national organizations that set aside specific weeks and months to raise awareness for various mental health issues and mental illnesses, including anxiety disorders. If you’re interested in taking part in events to promote anxiety awareness, looking into the organizations that recognize a specific awareness month is one potential place to start.
Mental Health Month
As mentioned, Mental Health Month is organized by Mental Health America (MHA) and recognized each May. It was founded by MHA and its partners in 1949 and continues to provide resources and facilitate critical conversations about mental health and health awareness in general today. You can avail of toolkits and information about events on their website.
Stress Awareness Month
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have designated April as Stress Awareness Month in the US. The NIH defines stress broadly as “physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension”, noting that it’s not always bad, but that ongoing or chronic stress can cause mental and physical health issues over time. Throughout April, the NIH and other organizations provide stress-management tips to help people manage it in their lives to avoid negative health consequences.
Other Campaigns Related To Mental Health And Anxiety
Other notable days and weeks for mental health awareness include:
World Mental Health Day, which is observed on October 10 and recognized by the World Health Organization
Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, which spotlights a specific mental illness each year. In 2023, the theme of the week is “anxiety”.
OCD Awareness Week, which takes place during the second week of October each year and is intended to raise awareness about obsessive-compulsive disorder, a specific type of anxiety disorder
National Counseling Awareness Month, which is observed every April to celebrate the mental health professionals who do the important work of supporting people with clinical conditions like anxiety and others
How To Raise Awareness For Anxiety During Mental Health Month
Regardless of your location in the world or which month of the year it is, there are plenty of ways you can contribute to raising awareness about anxiety and related conditions. If you’re looking for ideas, you might consider those listed below.
Sign Up For A Walk For Mental Health
Several US-based and national organizations organize walks or runs to fundraise for mental health resources. For example, the National Alliance on Mental Health organizes a series of walks throughout the US in the spring and the fall, all unified by the theme #Together4MH. These events offer a sense of solidarity with other walkers, as well as a chance to donate to and/or help raise money for mental health organizations.
Learn More About Anxiety Disorders
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or are supporting a loved one with anxiety, simply learning more about this class of disorders can be a powerful way to cultivate anxiety awareness in your own life. You can read more about anxiety disorders online, watch videos, listen to podcasts, and check out peer-reviewed studies on the latest scientific findings. Focusing on the facts and lived experiences of those with anxiety disorders can be one great way to work toward ending the stigma around these mental health conditions.
Donate To Or Volunteer With A Mental Health Organization
Giving of your resources or time can be another positive way to support anxiety research and awareness. There are many national and local organizations related to mental health care that you might choose to support. You could make a recurring donation to one that provides resources to those who need mental health assistance. Or, you could sign up to volunteer for an organization that’s arranging a fundraiser or provides services for those in need. Plus, as a bonus, research suggests that engaging in acts of generosity like volunteering may be linked to benefits for the giver, too, such as lower blood pressure and increased happiness and well-being.
Care For Your Own Mental Health
Engaging in healthy habits can help you safeguard your own mental health, which is another appropriate way to support mental health and anxiety awareness. Research suggests that engaging in frequent physical activity, eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and socializing regularly may all be linked to more positive mental health outcomes. Additionally, seeking treatment is recommended if you’re experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition. Treatment for a mental health condition, whether it’s depression, bipolar disorder, or just daily stress, can improve your quality of life. Not only can you get the care you deserve, but you can also contribute to ending the stigma around mental health care for those in your community.
How To Connect With A Therapist
If you suspect you may have anxiety or another mental health condition or could otherwise benefit from the nonjudgmental listening ear of a mental health care provider, you might consider meeting with a therapist. Most anxiety disorders are treatable, and a trained therapist can offer you the support and tools you may need to manage symptoms and improve your quality of life. If you’d prefer to meet with someone in person, you can search for a provider in your local area. If you’d feel more comfortable meeting with someone from the comfort of home, you might consider virtual therapy. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a licensed therapist who you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or online chat from anywhere you have an internet connection. Research suggests that online and in-person therapy can offer similar benefits in many cases, so the format you choose is typically up to you.
Anxiety disorders can occur in many different forms, but all have the potential to cause distress and interfere with mental health and daily functioning. Participating in official or unofficial events to raise funds for or spread information and awareness about this category of mental illnesses can be a helpful way to take part in observances for anxiety awareness and other mental health awareness campaigns. Observing mental health awareness month is one way to support those with mental illness.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is There A Depression Awareness Day?
Though there may not be a widely celebrated, exclusively focused Depression Awareness Day, the first week of May is considered Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week (as part of Mental Illness Awareness Week) in The United States. This week is dedicated to spreading information about anxiety disorders and depression and how they can impact our lives.
What Is National Mental Health Month?
According to the American Hospital Association, May is National Mental Health Month. This month's goal is to spread information and help battle the stigma that still surrounds various mental health issues.
National Mental Health Month encompasses many mental health disorders: anxiety and depression, social anxiety disorders, substance abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorder OCD, and more. The activities and efforts throughout mental health month may include specific awareness days, career development advice, overdose awareness, etc. They all aim to inform and support.
There’s no shortage of public efforts to promote understanding mental illnesses and their consequences. For instance, National Recovery Month focuses on supporting those recovering from various disorders healthily and sustainably.
Another great example is National Suicide Prevention Month, which is, as the name implies, more focused on being a prevention month. In this case, a prevention month is dedicated to helping the public understand the symptoms of mental illnesses, how they can escalate, and how to intervene.
The importance of prevention, recovery, or awareness months can’t be overstated. One of the most significant obstacles individuals with mental health issues face is getting others worldwide to understand what they’re going through.
So, during the next prevention month or recovery month, you encounter, you might find it helpful to take some time to learn about the struggles of others. It may provide insight into your mental health issues, but you’ll be well-equipped to support others even if it doesn't.
What Is The Theme For Mental Health Awareness 2020?
Whether you experience depression or anxiety, or any other mental illness, Mental Health Awareness Week is for you. In 2020, October 4-10 was classified as a mental awareness week in the U.S. specifically dedicated to informing the public about mental illness and how to help those who struggle with it.
2020’s theme, “What People With Mental Illness Want You to Know,” has focused explicitly on the reality of living with mental health disorders. There is still a lot of stigma and misunderstanding surrounding all sorts of mental health disorders (like eating disorders, substance abuse, depression, and anxiety, among others), unfortunately, which is why it’s important to elevate and celebrate the voices and efforts of those dealing with these challenges.
Of course, these sorts of efforts are meant to raise awareness about what it’s like to live with mental illness. The life events and daily routines of those with mental illness can be much different than some may imagine. Public awareness surrounding what it means to be mentally ill still has a long way to go.
Many individuals, even older adults, still deal with mental illnesses without realizing it. However, dealing with untreated mental illnesses can be detrimental to your health and others’ health and emotions.
Those interested in participating in future mental health awareness campaigns or efforts should check out the resources linked above!
What Is The Theme For World Mental Health Day 2020?
October 10, 2020, was the year’s annual World Mental Health Day, as organized by the Pan American Health Organization, and was themed based on improving investments in mental health. World Mental Health Day has the same goal as many of the prevention months discussed above: spread awareness, support, and improve lives.
The past year’s theme (“Move for mental health: Let’s invest!”) was meant to ensure that those with mental illnesses have the resources they need; it also served to educate the general public about what living with a mental illness is like.
World Mental Health Day is an opportunity to support those with mental illness in any way we can - through information, resources, healthcare, career development, etc. - and learn how to be sound support systems.
This day encompasses all mental illnesses, not just depression and anxiety (which arguably get more public recognition and acceptance than some other disorders). An important goal is to make mental illnesses seem like the natural, intense life challenges they are and give the world the tools to tackle them head-on.
Is Anxiety A Mental Illness?
Many of us are familiar with anxiety disorders, but not everyone knows how debilitating and life-altering dealing with anxiety can be. Both anxiety and depression can cause similar levels of disruption in daily life, lead to strained relationships, and, if left untreated, worsen over time.
Anxiety disorders do indeed count as mental illnesses. The difference between standard, expected anxiety (getting stressed about a big performance, for example) and an anxiety disorder are stark; anxiety disorders cause chronic, hard-to-control periods of intense pressure and sometimes even panic attacks.
Anxiety symptoms can vary from person to person (and depend on the severity of the mental illness itself). Still, generally speaking, those with anxiety experience dread or unease, have difficulty removing themselves from worry, and may also experience physical symptoms.
Those with mental illnesses, especially those left untreated, can be more prone to consequences like substance abuse, difficulty in relationships or the workplace, and more. The first step to confronting anxiety is understanding anxiety. That’s part of why the public acknowledgment of what it’s like to live with this disorder is so crucial.
What Is The Symbol Of Mental Illness?
There isn’t necessarily a universally accepted symbol for mental health disorders; it depends on who you ask. Natural symbols like butterflies or other animals often represent mental illness, resilience, and the human spirit.
Some symbols are specific to certain illnesses or efforts to combat them. Depression and anxiety, for example, may find the semicolon to be relatable and powerful. Whatever character you identify with is valid; if it brings you peace and inspires change, it’s worth hanging on to.
What Are The 5 Signs Of Mental Illness?
All mental health disorders have unique symptoms to look out for, so giving a generic list of signs of mental illness can be challenging. Fortunately, though, you can look out for some consistent and common mental distress symptoms.
They might include:
- Excessive worry, fear, or anxiety, even when there’s no clear, direct cause
- Isolation or withdrawal from others
- Substance abuse, especially to compensate for emotions
- Changes in eating: this can include eating more than usual, less than expected, avoiding food, sudden weight loss, etc.
- Mood changes: can consist of mood swings, irritability, sadness, etc.
Those with mental illnesses deal with symptoms that interfere with their daily lives. Mental conditions like depression and anxiety (in addition to others) can be just as limiting as physical illnesses.
Mental illness can make it hard to keep up a job, seek out career development, form meaningful relationships, and more. It’s something to take seriously, so if you notice yourself or someone you love developing the signs of a mental illness, it’s crucial to take action.
The first step is to see a doctor or other healthcare professional discuss your symptoms and, if necessary, receive a diagnosis. Unlike general medical advice, diagnosis information can be used to develop a treatment plan specific to you.
Another critical step is to find a therapist; you can find them in person (somewhere like a behavioral health center) or do it right from the convenience of your home via the Internet. No matter what, though, it’s essential to take action. Untreated mental illnesses often evolve into something worse that’s harder to control.
What Is The Symbol For Mental Health?
As is the case for symbols relating to mental illness, there isn’t necessarily one symbol associated with mental health or wellness.
Many individuals find symbols of strength to be best when working through their mental health issues; anything that reminds you of peace and inspires you to be your best self can symbolize your mental health!
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