Importance of Mental Health Awareness Month (and Other Initiatives)
Many advocating for those with mental health conditions observe Mental Health Awareness Month and Mental Health Awareness Week and speak of their importance. These observances aren't just critical to those with mental health conditions but also to those without so that everyone can be made aware of the mental health issues that are so prevalent in society today (Examples of Mental Illness). Additionally, mental health awareness helps to reduce – or maybe one day even to eliminate – the stigma that people with mental illness face.
What Is Mental Health Awareness?
Mental health awareness is the education of everyone on mental health issues. These issues include:
- What is mental health and who does it affect?
- What do you do if you feel you have a mental health issue?
- How does one improve his or her mental health?
- Mental health in the workplace
- Getting help for mental health concerns
And many other issues. Mental health awareness is about bringing the public's attention to the realities around mental health and letting everyone know that mental health affects everyone.
Mental illness awareness is also typically highlighted by many organizations when focusing on mental health awareness.
Mental Health Awareness Month and Mental Health America
Mental Health Awareness Month was initially envisioned by Mental Health America and for over 65 years, Mental Health America (MHA) has continued to observe May as Mental Health Awareness Month. Each year Mental Health America and their affiliates (such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI) reach millions of people through local events, such as screenings, and through the media. The specific message varies depending on the organization and the year, but all revolve around bringing awareness to the issues around mental health.
In 2015, for example, MHA propagated the theme "B4Stage4" and focused on how people could address their mental health concerns early and not wait until a crisis or "stage 4." NAMI created a campaign called "#IAmStigmaFree" and according to NAMI,
"Being Stigma Free means learning about and educating others on mental illness, focusing on connecting with people to see each other as individuals and not a diagnosis, and most importantly, taking action on mental health issues . . ."
How Can You Increase Mental Health Awareness?
Mental health awareness can be increased in simple ways such as just by talking about mental health and mental illness issues. These conversations can be had in the workplace, at school or at home. Sharing the facts about mental health – or about your mental health condition – increases awareness every day (Mental Health Stigma Teaches Mental Illness Is Rare).
Other ways people share the message of mental health awareness is through the green mental health awareness ribbons and the green mental health awareness bracelets. The green mental health ribbon campaign was rolled out in May 2015 and can be seen through images on people's Facebook and Twitter profiles and through the 500,000 green ribbons that were distributed in the United States in May 2015. The color green is now associated with mental health and has led to the creation of Limelight, an organization that encourages the use of green, such as in the green mental health awareness bracelets, to advocate for mental health awareness.
Last Updated: 20 May 2018
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD