Ways To Participate: Mental Health Awareness Month

Medically reviewed by April Brewer
Updated November 17, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Every spring federal leaders, individuals and organizations across the United States recognize various observances related to mental health. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which includes additional observances such as Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week (May 7–13, 2023) and National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day on May 9.

The core purpose of all of the above is to spread awareness about mental health topics to decrease stigma and equip the general public with helpful and potentially even life-saving information and resources. If you’re interested in participating in Mental Health Awareness month this May, read on for suggestions on how you might do so.

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You Can Inspire Others By Starting Your Mental Health Journey

How To Take Part In Mental Health Awareness Month

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five US adults currently lives with a mental health condition. The NIMH also reports that only around half of these will seek professional care for their symptoms. In addition, the United States Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, stated in an advisory regarding youth mental health that “one in three high school students and half of female students reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness.” These statistics illustrate just how important it is to increase awareness of mental health challenges and how they affect Americans’ lives (as well as the lives of citizens around the world.)

Some of the many potential reasons that people do not seek care include stigma, lack of awareness of warning signs of mental health conditions, and a lack of available resources. To recognize this important month, you might participate in a variety of events, reach out to a friend, or take care of yourself in new ways. In addition, you can raise awareness by celebrating National Recovery Month in September too.

See below for ideas on how to do so.

1. Educate Yourself On Mental Health Topics

Since many of us weren’t taught about mental and behavioral health or self-care growing up, it can be helpful to take the time to learn about these topics now. For example, you might take the time to learn about common mental health conditions and their warning signs, ways you can incorporate self-care into your routine, or how to help a loved one who is experiencing a mental illness. If you’re unsure of where to begin, you might start with some of the following reputable sources:

  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
  • National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association (NAAPIMHA), an organization that also helps native Hawaiians
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
  • National Council for Mental Wellbeing (NCMW)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
  • World Health Organization (WHO), which offers plentiful information about subjects pertaining to mental health and substance use
  • American Psychological Association (APA)
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or it's one of its agencies (like the Indian Health Service, which assists native and tribal communities)

If you are currently in crisis, you can also use resources like the 988 Crisis Lifeline. This line can be reached 24/7 by dialing 988, and provide you support in times of emotional distress.

2. Take An Online Mental Health Screening

Only those that provide qualified mental or behavioral health services can make a clinical diagnosis of a mental illness. However, participating in an online screening can help you take an inventory of any symptoms you may be experiencing so you can understand whether it might be time to seek professional support for them. The Mental Health America website provides free online screening questionnaires that you can take if you suspect you may be experiencing a mental health condition such as depression, postpartum depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, ADHD, or an eating disorder. If the results suggest you might be living with one of these conditions, it’s usually recommended that you connect with a licensed mental health professional next for evaluation and treatment.

3. Create A Self-Care Routine

Just as habits like eating well and getting enough sleep can help us preserve our physical health, there are certain habits that can help us preserve our mental health too. (Plus, research suggests that maintaining good physical habits—such as exercising regularly—can promote mental health as well as a result of the mind-body connection.) 

That said, self-care related to mental health can look different for everyone, so you may need to spend a bit of time figuring out what works for your personal well being. There is no one correct answer: For instance, young adults may find that taking regular breaks from social media helps them feel less anxious, while older adults may benefit from practicing gratitude or regularly journaling about their feelings. Once you find the activities that seem to bring you positive benefits, you can incorporate them into your regular routine.

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4. Try Meditating

Meditation began as a spiritual and cultural practice in India centuries ago. Today, it’s still practiced there as well as around the world. A large part of its increase in global popularity is due to the many potential overall health benefits that researchers have uncovered. For example, the American Psychological Association reports that meditation can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression and may also be beneficial for those facing challenges related to addiction. Mental Health Awareness Month could represent an opportunity for you to look up free videos or try an app to help you learn how to meditate so you can see if it offers mental health benefits for you. 

5. Check In On Those Around You

Community living and support can make a significant difference in the mental health of all of us as individuals. This May, you might commit to being more intentional about checking in on loved ones or families in your community to see how they’re doing. If you have someone in your life who has previously experienced a substance-related mental condition, you could use this month as a time to celebrate recovery and congratulate them on their progress. Sometimes, a person may not know how to ask for help when experiencing a mental health concern, or they may not feel comfortable doing so—but if you ask them directly, they may be more inclined to tell so you can provide support. This could take the form of visiting an elderly relative, texting a friend who doesn’t live near you, or meeting up with a family constituent you haven’t seen in a while for coffee. If they seem to be coping with some mental health challenges, you can offer support by telling your own story, offering resources, or simply providing a listening ear.

6. Tell Them Your Experience

As mentioned above, part of what prevents many people from seeking the mental health care they may need is stigma. Some individuals may feel shame about reaching out for support or even about experiencing symptoms in the first place. One way to help fight this kind of stigma is for all of us to be more open about our own mental health and substance use challenges. If you’ve faced mental health challenges in the past and are comfortable expressing them, you might talk about them with friends, post them on social media, or submit them to a site like NAMI. Someone who hears or sees your story might feel less alone in the challenges they may be facing as a result, potentially prompting them to seek care.

7. Support A Mental Health Organization

There are countless organizations and federal programs out there that aim to support the mental health of the public in various ways, from providing education to raising money to decrease financial barriers to care. This Mental Health Awareness Month, you might get involved with one of these in some way. For example, you could look up mental health nonprofits or similar organizations in your area and find out if they’re looking for volunteers or accepting donations.

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You Can Inspire Others By Starting Your Mental Health Journey

8. Speak With A Therapist

Finally, connecting with a therapist can be another powerful way to recognize Mental Health Awareness Month in your own life. If you're experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition, they can help you address these. Even if not, meeting with a mental health professional can still be beneficial. For example, they can help you improve your self-esteem, boost your communication skills, or simply give you a safe space where you can express and process your feelings. Research suggests that online therapy is “no less efficacious” than traditional, in-office sessions, so you can typically choose the format that’s most comfortable or convenient for you.

Some people find the prospect of seeking out mental health services or meeting with a therapist in person to be intimidating, especially if they’ve never received professional mental health support before. In cases like these, or where receiving affordable, quality care in person is difficult, you might consider online therapy. With a platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a licensed therapist who you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging to address the challenges you may be facing. 

Takeaway

May has been designated as Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. There are various ways to celebrate it, including taking steps to improve your own mental health and offering support to those around you. 

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