In any given year, more than one in five of us will experience some type of mental health problem. It is no surprise, therefore, that there’s a need for an event like Mental Health Awareness Month. It connects us with the issues that face millions of people every year and delivers help for those most in need.
Do you know somebody with a mental health condition? Has a doctor diagnosed you with one? If so, it is time to get involved, raise money, and spread awareness of how things like anxiety and depression affect people’s lives.
Learn about Mental Health Awareness Month
Mental Health Awareness Month is an annual event organized by Mental Health – known historically as the Association for Mental Health. The event aims to enhance the public consciousness of mental health issues through a variety of activities and campaigns that continue for roughly four weeks.
Mental health issues are still widely misunderstood by both the public and mental health professionals. While there is far less stigma surrounding issues that affect the body, health issues that concern the mind still carry some of the burdens of the past. People with depression, for instance, don’t just have the “blues.” Researchers now increasingly believe that the condition results from physiological problems in the brain, many of which relate to environmental factors. Similarly, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, multiple personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and others seem to have biological bases.
These conditions can be challenging to understand from the outside. There’s a tendency to label people living with mental health problems with morally-loaded terms. But practices such as these are unhelpful at best.
Mental Health Awareness Month, therefore, is a chance for everyone to work together to see mental health through a new lens. Philosophically, the event is an effort to alter perceptions. Instead of blaming the individual for their behavior, it is an opportunity to understand the plight of sufferers and find solutions.
History of Mental Health Awareness Month
Mental Health – formerly known as the Association for Mental Health – organized the first Mental Health Awareness Month in 1949. Interestingly, though, it is not the only society that engages in periodic outreach throughout the year. Other organizations, such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, also get heavily involved in annual campaigns.
Mental health issues are, unfortunately, a scourge on our society – a hidden epidemic that often rumbles on in the background, hiding its scale. Mental Health Awareness Month, therefore, is an attempt to bring these issues to the fore. In the past, the purpose of the month was to raise funds for those affected by various conditions. But in recent times, organizers shifted the emphasis to the problem of stigma.
Stigma is one of the main reasons why people don’t come forward for mental health treatment. Patients view their symptoms as a mark of their character instead of a problem with their biology, outside of their control. People do not see a broken leg as a sign of personal inadequacy, but they may take that view with mental health conditions.
Another purpose of the event is to highlight the fact that treatments are improving with every passing year. Talk therapies, medications, and lifestyle interventions all combine to produce radically beneficial outcomes for patients. There’s no need for people to suffer in silence. Options are available.
In 2008, the theme for Mental Health Awareness month was social connectedness. The organizers wanted to highlight the fact that isolation is a significant driver of mental health issues. People who live alone, especially the elderly, can experience higher rates of depression.
In 2009, they updated the theme to “live your life well.” The idea here was to educate the public on how to adopt pro-mental health lifestyles that could prevent conditions from developing in the first place. There was an emphasis on socializing more, getting exercise, and learning how to deal with stress.
Throughout the subsequent years, organizers introduced the public with a host of new ideas, designed to raise awareness of specific facets of mental health. In 2017, for instance, the theme was “Risky Business” and focused on the behaviors most likely to result in mental illness. These included things like risky sex, troublesome exercise patterns, the use of drugs, and excessive spending.
In 2019, the focus was on getting “fit for the future.” The organizers wanted to help people with mental health conditions lay the groundwork in their lives today to live a happy and prosperous life tomorrow.
How to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month
Mental health is a significant concern in our society, but it is also something that we can each address individually. The good news is that you can get involved with the effort and lend a helping hand to those around you.
The easiest way to get involved in Mental Health Awareness Month is to download the Mental Health Month Toolkit. This resource provides you with practically everything that you need to improve your own mental health, and that of the people around you. It includes material that helps you to own your feelings, look for the positives in situations, and eliminate the toxic influences on your life. It also provides information on how to create a healthy routine, support other people in your community, and connect with those who might be isolated.
The second thing that you can do is learn more about the stigmas of mental health. As we discussed, researchers are increasingly coming to the view that mental health conditions are strictly biological processes. Individual patients do not choose their health problems. You might, therefore, want to reach out in ways that highlight this important point.
Next, you could treat yourself to a spot of pampering or a well-deserved vacation. Regular working life can be tough. But going away for a week in the sun gives you a chance to recharge your batteries and gain a new lease on life.
Finally, you can attend events and share information related to mental health with your friends and family on social media.
Here’s to a brighter and healthier future!