May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This is a month when people all across the mental health community join together to help spread awareness around mental illness through events and content to let people know that they are not alone.
The stigma that surrounds mental illness and mental health makes it difficult for some people to seek treatment and get the help that they need and deserve. The stigma can cause some people to feel shame about the symptoms and struggles that they are facing. They may be embarrassed to seek help from traditional therapy or online therapy services for fear that others will find out, and they may feel alone in their struggles like they’re the only ones going through a similar situation.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are 1 in 5 adults in America living with a mental illness, and yet, the stigma still exists, causing people to feel like they may be the only ones. This is the reason that Mental Health Awareness Month is so important. Positive mental health and well-being impacts behavioral health and physical health.
One of the best ways to beat the stigma surrounding mental health challenges is to keep the topic in the conversation. For example, the more that people are willing to share their own personal experience with mental health challenges and the effects of stress or trauma, the easier it is for others that are struggling to see and believe that they are not alone in their communities.
You can share the facts of your story with those in your life, such as family and friends. Or, you can share your story online to try to reach more people. This could include speaking out on social media platforms like Facebook or sharing your story on a platform such as OC87 Recovery Diaries. Mental health services like this work to offer mental health parity to all individuals.
If you’re considering sharing your story, remember that you have control over what pieces of your story you’re able to share. There are ways that you can share some parts of it to help others in their journey without having to share personal details that might make you uncomfortable. The goal of sharing your story is simply to help other people know that they aren’t the only ones going through it and that there is hope.
Another way that you can participate in Mental Health Awareness Month is to educate yourself on topics around mental health and wellness. This could include learning how to practice good self-care habits to protect your own mental wellness. Or, this could include learning about specific mental illnesses, like bipolar disorder, that you may have wrong beliefs about by reading a study on it.
Learning about mental illness, the symptoms of it, and how it affects the lives of people living with the challenge can help you to have more empathy for others. It can also help you to break any stigmas or prejudice that you may have against patients with a mental health diagnosis. These are important steps towards overcoming the mental health stigma and national mental health crisis.
If you are unfamiliar with many mental health topics, you can spend time online doing personal research. There are many blog posts that you can read on a variety of mental health topics with enlightening statistics about the state of mental health care access. There's also plenty of infographic images to help you visualize these statistics. Or, you can check sites like Mental Health America, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and the National Institute of Mental Health. Many different nonprofit organizations work to help spread awareness about mental health to Americans.
Another thing that you can do to take action during Mental Health Awareness Month is to speak with a therapist to address any mental health challenges that you’re facing in your life. Some people mistakenly believe that therapists are only able to help people with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Because of stories that they hear on TV or in the media, they may struggle to see that many mental health challenges impact people daily. This includes things like anxiety and depression or troubled relationships.
Talking with a therapist does not necessarily mean that you will be diagnosed with a mental illness. Therapists, like those at BetterHelp, can assist you in struggles that you’re facing in life or feel stuck in a rut. You can ask your primary care provider to recommend mental health resources or behavioral health services to supplement talk therapy.
If you are experiencing any challenges, consider making an appointment with a therapist during Mental Health Awareness Month to learn more about the strategies that you can use to improve the areas of your life that you’re struggling in. If you're managing substance use, you can also turn to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Self-care plays an important role in mental health. If you have not been practicing good self-care habits, this focus on mental health for the month can be a great time to put those in place.
Self-care habits include things such as getting the proper amount of sleep, making healthy food choices, getting regular physical activity into your schedule, and participating in activities that you enjoy and that help recharge you. If you’re feeling burnt out and exhausted in life, then adding self-care habits to your day may be able to help improve this.
Even things like meditation, journaling, and reading a book well but can count as self-care. It’s all about finding the things that helped you to unwind and recharge healthily. Self-care habits can be especially helpful in supporting youth mental health.
Mental Health Awareness Month is also a good time to focus on seeing how you can support those that are around you. Mental health challenges can be different from physical challenges because you’re often unable to see that people are struggling with them. If someone is in a wheelchair, you can see that they have a disability that they are living with. However, you’re not able to see when someone around you is struggling with something like depression, or other mental health conditions.
This is another reason why it can be helpful to educate yourself on mental health. When you are familiar with some of the symptoms of common mental health challenges, it can help you to identify people or even children that may be struggling in your life. This doesn’t mean that you’re responsible or able to fix anyone, and you shouldn’t be trying to fix them. Instead, if you recognize that they may be struggling, it allows you to see how you can support them.
This could include helping them to reach out for professional help from a therapist or even just making sure that you check in with them regularly to see if there’s anything you can do to support them.
Many different non-profit human services organizations support mental health awareness. You can choose an organization that has a personal connection to you and find out how you can support them in their efforts. There are organizations for things like substance abuse disorders, depression, suicide prevention, children's mental health conditions, and many other specific focuses. Some behavioral health care nonprofits focus on substance use prevention.
These organizations need support and funding in their efforts. During Mental Health Awareness Month, you can contact these organizations to find out what you can do to support them in their efforts.
Mental Health America has put together a mental health month toolkit to help people improve their own mental health while also building resiliency. This toolkit can be downloaded for free on their website. It includes information about managing your feelings, toxic influences, healthy routines, and how does support connect with others.
You may be falling for the mental health stigmas that exist without even realizing it. If you want to address mental health awareness, it’s important to also look at yourself to see if you can identify any areas where you are contributing to the stigma that exists.
This can include things like believing people with mental illness are more dangerous than others or feeling like they may not be as capable in the workplace. It can also be supporting media such as TV shows that use stigmatizing language and behaviors, such as portraying people with mental health conditions as more likely to engage in high risk behaviors or use drugs.
As you work on addressing any behaviors or beliefs in your own life that are caused by the stigma surrounding mental health, it can help you to be more compassionate and empathetic for those that are struggling. You can also help in the effort of spreading awareness around the issues.
Many mental health providers work hard to offer support and care without stigma. Health care workers are aware of stigmas that surround mental health, and want to help you through your challenges. You can speak with a counselor, therapist, psychologist, or trained crisis counselor to get the help you need. Additionally, because of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, health insurers cannot impose less favorable benefits onto mental health services.
If you are struggling with a mental health challenge, look for any ways that you are allowing the stigma to negatively impact your own life. This could be through not getting the help that you need from a professional or being too afraid to take steps in your life towards a goal because you believe that it’s not possible due to your mental health challenge.
If you feel like the stigma surrounding mental health is negatively impacting you, talking to a therapist can help you work through how to move forward in overcoming it. While May is Mental Health Awareness Month, mental health should be something that is in our everyday conversations. It’s something that impacts many people in our country and around the world. So, don’t feel like there’s only a certain time of year when it should be a focus. Anytime that you need help or see someone that you believe needs help, take the necessary steps to help make it happen.
Especially with the Covid pandemic, online therapy has become more accessible and a more convenient choice for many looking to improve their mental health. Check out BetterHelp.com for more information on teletherapy.