Mental Health Awareness And Resources

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis, LCMHC
Updated April 17, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Mental health awareness can be essential in teaching communities, families, and individuals about mental health and its impacts. Every year, over 41.4 million US adults see a therapist or mental health professional for support. This is also a reason why we celebrate World Mental Health Day annually. According to NAMI (The National Alliance On Mental Illness), one in five people in the United States lives with a significant mental health condition.

May is National Counseling Awareness Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. The first week of May is Children's Mental Health Awareness Week. Since most are aware of the importance of mental health, it can be rewarding to learn about mental health conditions, symptoms, stigmas, challenges, and concerns at any time of the year. Challenging mental health myths can be a part of living with mental health challenges on any day. Additionally, studies show that destigmatizing mental health can improve the care and support for all. 

Professional and empathic support may improve your mental health

What is mental health awareness?

Mental health awareness can mean researching mental health, paying attention to your symptoms, and practicing empathy and compassion toward those with mental health conditions. Awareness may also include validation, self-discovery, and seeking growth. If necessary, it might include seeking professional support, such as therapy. 

Since 1949, May has been known as a mental health awareness month. However, efforts to educate about mental health have occurred throughout all months. In 2008, experts at Harvard Health found that anxiety and stress were associated with chronic physical illnesses, including heart disease and gastrointestinal complications. Since then, many studies have emerged about the mind-body connection. Being aware of mental health may also be a way of being aware of your physical health. 

Why does mental health awareness matter?

Mental health can be a critical part of overall well-being. Mental health conditions impact one in every five adults, 49.5% of adolescents, and 17.4% of children. With these numbers, you may know someone who has a mental health condition, or you could struggle with one yourself. 

Mental health conditions can happen to anyone of any background, age, gender, sexuality, race, class, or status. Treatment programs can be life-changing for those diagnosed or experiencing symptoms. However, due to stigmas, lack of resources, and cost, some people do not reach out for help. National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day may help kids and adults feel more comfortable in seeking support.

Common mental health conditions

Below are a few common mental health conditions. Understanding the symptoms of a mental health condition could help you notice the signs if one occurs in your life. 

Anxiety disorders

Statistically, over 18% of adults are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. These include but are not limited to the following: 

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)  
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Phobias
  • Social anxiety disorder 
  • Panic disorder 

Anxiety disorders are genuine medical conditions that can cause physical and emotional symptoms. Common symptoms of anxiety may include:

  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Excessive worrying 
  • Irrational fears 
  • Panic or anxiety attacks 
  • Hypervigilance 
  • Racing thoughts
  • A fast heartbeat
  • Difficulty making decisions 

Panic attacks can make a person feel distressing physical symptoms. They may also believe they will die or have complications from their panic attacks. People living with anxiety disorders might be told that their mental health condition is a choice or that their symptoms are "in their head." However, anxiety often requires treatment to manage symptoms. An anxiety disorder can be as real as any physical medical condition. Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health conditions in the US. 

Mood disorders

Depression and bipolar disorder are two mood disorders. Mood disorders can be experienced through difficulty with emotional control, navigating daily life, and interpersonal relationships. Mood changes can occur rapidly, multiple times a day, or less frequently. Those who experience depression may experience only one mood: a depressed mood. 

Mood disorders can be mild or severe. Some people live with dysthymia, a type of depression that may be less severe than major depressive disorder. People living with mood disorders can benefit from psychiatric medication and sessions with a trained counselor to handle emotional shifts and feel a balanced mood. Depression is a serious mental illness that can negatively impact the life of a person. Another event that gives awareness of depression is National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month. Besides providing an understanding of depression, the observance also aims to provide awareness of the importance of mental health screenings.

Personality disorders

People with personality disorders may experience rigid thinking and trouble maintaining interpersonal relationships. Their behavioral patterns might be difficult to change but might be managed with therapy and medication. 

If someone with a personality disorder isn't receiving mental health treatment, their relationships and career might be affected adversely. Some examples of personality disorders include:

  • Borderline personality disorder 
  • Narcissistic personality disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
  • Histrionic personality disorder 

Often, personality disorders are caused by trauma. A 2022 study found that trauma therapy like EMDR may be effective for those experiencing a personality disorder. 

Psychotic disorders

Psychotic disorders are a group of mental health conditions that may alter an individual's perception of reality. Individuals with a psychotic disorder might struggle to differentiate what's authentic from their thoughts or hallucinations. They may see or hear external stimuli or voices that are not real. 

For a person with a psychotic disorder, it can be difficult to understand reality. Additionally, they may experience mania, delusions of grandeur, or spiritual psychosis. Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder are examples of psychotic disorders. These conditions are often treated with medication and therapy. 

Trauma and stressor-related disorders

The DSM-5 has updated the category for certain conditions to trauma and stressor-related disorders. One of these conditions includes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which was initially listed as an anxiety disorder in the DSM but is no longer. PTSD can accompany feelings of fear, hypervigilance, physical symptoms, reliving of memories, and nightmares associated with singular or multiple traumatic events. 

PTSD and other trauma-related disorders are often treated through therapy, such as EMDR, internal family systems, trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), Gestalt therapy, and humanistic counseling. 

Awareness of mental health stigmas 

There are many stigmas related to mental health conditions and symptoms. Common stigmas may include the following: 

Substance use disorder stigmas 

People may believe that substance users are choosing to have a dependency or that they are choosing to harm others. However, substance use can have physical impacts on the brain, causing difficulty with memory, changing moods, and other mental health symptoms. Addiction is a mental health condition, not a choice. 

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources. 

Other mental health condition myths

Other mental health myths may make it difficult to receive treatment. For example, there are often stigmas againstmen and boys reaching out for support, which may cause higher statistics on rates of specific mental health conditions in women than in men.  

Additionally, some people may believe that mental health conditions can be cured entirely through lifestyle changes. Although exercise, sleep, healthy eating, and yoga can be beneficial and may reduce the severity of symptoms, they may not cure or treat mental health conditions alone. 

The impact of stigmas 

Stigmas can affect people in various ways. People may feel unable to reach out for support or talk about their symptoms with those they trust. If presented with a box that says, "do you have a disability?" when applying for jobs, many people may not reveal their mental health condition. People might also forgo treatment, such as medication or talking to a doctor, due to shame. 

How to reduce stigmas 

Educating yourself on stigmas and letting others know about research can be beneficial in helping more people understand mental health. Not everyone with a mental health condition feels or experiences the same symptoms. Conditions can be complex. If you know someone with a mental health condition, try to act validating, supportive, and kind. You may not need to know their whole medical history to offer support. 

Resources

Individuals might use a few resources to learn more about mental health and seek support. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness 

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) is a human services resource for people with a mental health condition or those who care for someone who lives with one. NAMI has over 500 affiliates that educate people on the symptoms of mental health conditions. You can look at NAMI's website to find a list of further mental health resources and national events regarding mental health. There are NAMI branches all over the United States, and there might be a branch in your city. You can call the NAMI helpline for further information. 

Crisis resources 

Below are a few crisis hotlines for those who require them: 

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
  • Veterans Crisis Line: Call 1-800-273-8255 (and press 1) or text 838255. For support for the deaf and hard of hearing community, please use your preferred relay service or dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255.
  • Trevor Lifeline (LGBTQ Lifeline): (866) 488-7386 
  • SAMHSA National Helpline (Substance Use): (800) 662-4357
  • National Eating Disorder Association Helpline: 1-800-931-2237 (M-Th: 9 AM-9 PM EST, Fri 9 AM - 5 PM EST)

Anxiety and Depression Association Of America 

On their site, the ADAA cites information on individuals living with depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. ADAA strives to help those with mental health conditions find support and reach out for resources. ADAA attempts to empower individuals and their loved ones by providing resources about mental health awareness. They educate people using scientific resources and expert testimony.

The National Eating Disorder Association 

Eating disorders may have one of the highest mortality rates among mental health conditions. An eating disorder may co-occur with other mental health diagnoses such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. If you know someone who is experiencing an eating disorder, or you believe it might offer support to you, you check NEDA for resources.

Insensitive jokes about mental health 

Some individuals might make jokes using mental health terms to appeal to social groups. For example, you may have heard the following statements: 

  • "The weather is so bipolar today." 
  • "I am so OCD when I clean." 
  • "I'm freaking out. I'm having a panic attack." (In a joking tone) 
  • "She's so crazy." 
  • "What a psycho."
  • "I should be sent to the 'loony bin.'" 
  • "My intrusive thoughts are so funny." 
  • "I'm so ADD." 

You may perpetuate mental health stigmas and myths when you joke with unkind words or misuse mental health terms for the sake of joking or relating with peers. You could also make someone else feel hurt, upset, or shameful about their condition. Additionally, when used to joke around, words may lose their meaning when used seriously. For example, suppose someone says they're having a panic attack when they feel slightly nervous about a test. In that case, someone experiencing an actual panic attack may not know it and could feel they are experiencing a medical emergency because their symptoms aren't congruent to what their friend reported.  

On the other hand, if someone uses the term "OCD" to refer to a desire to keep a house in order or clean their belongings, someone who is experiencing forms of OCD that have nothing to do with compulsions or cleaning may not know that they are experiencing symptoms and might not reach out for support. Additionally, intrusive thoughts are not repetitive or annoying thoughts or urges. They can be severe, scary, intense, distressing, and graphic thoughts that cause panic, anxiety, and fear in someone experiencing OCD or another anxiety disorder. The OCD Awareness Week provides enlightenment about OCD which affects millions of people worldwide. It gives the opportunity to learn more about the symptoms and the impact of OCD. Educating yourself and using proper terminology may reduce stigmas about mental health. 

How to fight stigmas further 

Stigma can cause people to feel ashamed, sad, and alone. They may feel targeted or embarrassed when their peers joke about something serious. There are a few ways to reduce mental health stigmas. 

Educate yourself and others 

Read about mental health, ask questions, and educate yourself on topics to raise awareness appropriately. You might also work to understand common mental health conditions and participate in suicide prevention and awareness by planning a community event or advocating for youth mental health. You can also get involved in the activities and events during National Suicide Prevention Week and Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

Check with those around you because people may not reach out when struggling. You can also volunteer for local mental health organizations like your local NAMI. There may be hashtags on social media to check out, such as #MHSM (mental health social media). If you or someone in your life is in crisis, reach out to a hotline for support. 

Volunteer

You can participate in volunteer activities in your community, whether you start an organization or help out at an existing organization. Volunteer efforts can be vital to communities in several ways because they can save lives and decrease stigma.

Know the statistics 

Knowing the following statistics may help you spread awareness: 

  • Anxiety affects over 42 million people
  • Depression impacts over 62 million people
  • Bipolar disorder affects over 6.1 million people
  • Schizophrenia affects over 2.4 million people
  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects over 3 million people. There are 100 cases of autism diagnosed every day

Begin a career in mental health

If you're motivated to support those with mental health conditions, you might choose to pursue a career in the mental health field. For example, you could attend school to become a therapist, psychiatrist, forensic psychologist, or neuropsychologist, among many other careers. You could also become active in public policy for health. 

With education, you may impact legal change surrounding how society views people experiencing mental health symptoms. You don't necessarily have to be a health provider to help people with mental health conditions. You might also become a social worker, humanitarian, professor, or someone who works at a non-profit. 

Become an advocate for your community

Stigma can perpetuate lies about mental health, so advocating in your community can help you with information. Read about mental health issues and talk to people with a condition if you do not. Find accurate information from those who are willing to tell stories. If you have social media reach, you might post about mental health for your followers. 

Practice self-care 

Care for your mental health as much as you can. Promoting healthy behaviors may help you support others. Rely on yourself or your support system for care. Some positive coping mechanisms you might use include: 

  • Journaling about your feelings 
  • Exercising 
  • Practicing sleep hygiene 
  • Playing with your pets or children
  • Spending time with someone you love 
  • Meditating or practicing mindfulness 
  • Yoga
  • Spending time in nature
  • Swimming 
  • Singing or playing an instrument 
  • Listening to music
  • Cooking or baking 
  • Taking a class

Professional and empathic support may improve your mental health

Seek therapeutic support

Your choices and the support you seek can support your mental health. You may consider attending therapy if you are experiencing a mental health condition or have concerns about your overall well-being. Finding a therapist could allow you to manage symptoms, learn healthy coping skills, and support others. 

Online therapy for mental health support

Those experiencing mental health conditions often experience barriers to treatment, such as cost, distance, availability, and scheduling. You might benefit from online counseling if you struggle to find a counselor in your area due to barriers. Online cognitive behavioral therapy for various conditions and symptoms can be more affordable, often has higher client satisfaction, and may cause a more significant decrease in symptoms than in-person therapy.

You can choose between phone, video, and live chat sessions to get started. Once you start therapy, you can attend your sessions from any location with an internet connection, such as your home. If you're interested in talking to a professional, consider signing up for a platform like BetterHelp, which offers you a growing database of licensed counselors. 

Takeaway

Mental health stigmas can be challenging to confront. Mental health awareness may bring the public eye to these myths and help more people learn about the impact of mental health conditions on their communities. If you're experiencing distressing symptoms or seeking professional support, consider reaching out to a counselor for further guidance. 

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