May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Millions of Americans are affected by mental health conditions every year. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. — 43.8 million, or 18.5 percent — experiences mental illness in a given year; and we know this is increasingly an issue with America’s youth.
While there are effective treatments available, many individuals with known mental health issues never seek help from a professional due to stigma, discrimination, a lack of resources, or a combination of all three. Even if you don’t struggle with mental illness, you have the opportunity to inspire others to raise awareness and take part in the sharing of information, tools, and support for mental health issues. You can make a legitimate difference and help change the narrative from negative to one of positive affirmation.
4 Ways You Can Help Raise Mental Health Awareness
Talk About It
The first step in raising awareness for mental health is your willingness to talk to people about it. When you ask someone how his or her day was, ask sincerely. Talk to people about how they are really feeling, rather than passively ask without waiting for a genuine answer. Everyone has something they’re willing to share, and your willingness to talk about your mental health will surely rub off on those around you.
Share Your Story
Just like your willingness to talk about mental health will influence others, so will your willingness to share your story. Your personal mental health journey may not be very easy to talk about, but it is imperative if you want to raise awareness to those in your community. People connect and identify with your story, no matter how personal it may be. Others have had very similar experiences, and hearing your story will motivate others to do the same.
There are many ways you can encourage others when it comes to mental health. A great first step is to encourage non-judgmental speak. This is one way to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental illness. Encourage friends and loved ones to be screened for mental illness and talk to mental health professionals. Encourage people around you to eat healthy meals that will keep their mental health in check.
Learn and Educate
Learn the signs and symptoms of depression. Know what to look for in yourself and people around you, and teach your friends and family the signs as well. Learn what to do if someone talks about or threatens suicide. Memorize the Suicide Prevention Hotline number (1-800-273-TALK), and share it with others. All of these tools will help you know what to do in case of emergency, and spreading the word will only create more advocates for mental health in your community. It’s time to erase the stigma and educate everyone you know.
If you’re ready to seek professional treatment for your mental health condition, SAMHSA’s helpline and web-based behavioral health treatment services locator can help you find information about treatment providers, therapists counselors, support groups, and community resources in your area.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline