Celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month
Why Mental Health Awareness is Important
A nonprofit organization called Mental Health America started observing may as Mental Health Awareness month in 1949. Now, millions of participants across the country observe the occasion through local events, documentary screenings, and online media. Through each of these actions, Mental Health Awareness Month helps the 46.6 million American adults and million of minors who experience mental illness each year.
Even though millions of Americans live with some type of mental illness, stigmas continue to persist. Myths and misunderstandings about mental illness fuel these stereotypes. Unfortunately, these harmful stigmas keep people from seeking treatment.
For example, someone may hear people say that anyone who sees a therapist must be “crazy” and to be avoided at all costs. Then, if she starts exhibiting symptoms of common mental illnesses like depression or anxiety, she may not decide to get the help she needs. Similarly, a man could hear that all people with schizophrenia are violent, then not recognize real symptoms of the disease in himself because he’s not violent.
One of the most important goals of mental health awareness is to bust these myths and change the conversation about mental health. This change then paves the way for people to get the help they need and deserve.
Mental health awareness can also:
- Build a sense of belonging
- Let undiagnosed people know they are not alone and that help is available
- Spread truth about mental health symptoms
- Normalize therapy, medication, and other behavioral health treatments
- Connect people with vital resources
Mental Health Disorders Can Affect Anyone
Myths about who mental illness affects are some of the most dangerous stigmas. People might believe you have to experience significant trauma to have a mental illness or that only a particular type of person can develop these diseases. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Anyone can experience mental illness regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, or lifestyle.
It’s true that specific populations are more likely to develop mental illnesses, like combat veterans, incarcerated people, and those without homes. However, many people with mental illness have none of these risk factors.
The fact that anyone can become mentally ill is not meant to scare people. Mental illness is like physical illness in the way that it can affect anyone. Instead, this information should help people feel empowered to reach out for help when they need it.
If people develop cancer, they do not refuse treatment because someone else’s cancer is in a later stage or because only other types of people get the disease. Instead, they follow the course of treatment that works best for them.
The same should be true for mental illness. After all, mental illnesses can be fatal without treatment, and there is no shame in getting the help you need to fight deadly diseases, whether they are psychological or physical.
How to Get Help
Because mental illnesses all have unique symptoms and diagnostic criteria, patients should never try to self-diagnose. However, you should see a psychological professional if you have several signs of any mental illness.
Sometimes it’s hard for patients to determine if they have mental illness that needs treatment or if they are just having a few bad days. As a general rule of thumb, psychological symptoms need treatment if they affect the patient’s ability to complete their daily tasks or if they interfere with interpersonal relationships. Some commons symptoms of mental illness include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Overwhelming feelings of sadness or worry
- Trouble concentrating
- Problems in relationships
- Substance abuse
- Changes in appetite
If you believe that you may have a mental illness, it’s important to know that there is hope. Psychological professionals have many tools to help patients just like you, which may include:
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Family Therapy
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
- In-patient services
Not all types of treatments work for all patients. It’s important for patients to know that they can speak up if they feel uncomfortable with a specific course of treatment. For example, people who feel nervous about taking mental health medications should voice their concerns to their treatment teams.
Regardless of what treatment works for you, the most important thing is to take the first step. If you’re not sure where to start, contact GBHP today. We can connect you with compassionate mental health professionals who can help you feel better.
If you or someone you love considers suicide, please reach out to a crisis center immediately. You can go to your nearest emergency room, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or text HOME to 741741 for the Crisis Text Line.