In the past, mental health was something that felt uncomfortable and unacceptable to talk about. Millions of people struggled silently, feeling unable to speak up under the heaviness of shame. While this reality is certainly still present for many, our society has taken big steps forward in destigmatizing mental health and increasing access to resources for those who need it most.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month — a time for us all to come together each year to continue to raise awareness for mental health. While we must continue to spread awareness, we must also shift our focus to the next step in improving our mental health culture: taking action!
When we talk about the importance of mental health awareness, let’s first take a look at some of the stats surrounding mental health in the U.S. According to the National Institute on Mental Illness (NAMI):
These stats illuminate why raising awareness is so crucial — mental illness affects a significant portion of our population and has been on the rise over the past few years. When we raise awareness, we help people know that they are not alone in their struggles and that there are resources available to help them.
Over the past couple of decades, the increase in awareness surrounding mental health has been a huge step forward. But awareness alone is not enough. We must build upon awareness and take tangible steps to improve the mental health of ourselves, each other and our communities. Action is the real change agent!
Taking action for mental health looks different for everyone. It can be something as small as checking in with a loved one — even this small action can make a big difference! Let’s take a look at a few more actions below.
When we talk about our own mental health journeys with others, we continue to break the stigma and help others feel more comfortable to open up, too. Share about your high moments and your low moments with your loved ones — you never know who you will help to feel less alone!
Oftentimes you will never know what someone else is going through unless you ask. Many people struggle with knowing how to open up and talk about their mental health. By asking questions and being an active listener, you can create a safe space for someone to talk about what they’re going through.
There are so many nonprofits around the globe doing essential work for the mental health of their communities. From participating in groundbreaking research, to providing food and shelter to those in need to offering free mental health services, find a nonprofit in your community doing work that you feel connected to — and donate if you are able!
Financial contributions are far from the only way to give back to local mental health efforts. Volunteering is a great opportunity to get involved in this work, connect with others and find purpose.
Mental health is a complex and ever-evolving topic. We learn more about it each and every day from researchers and professionals who have devoted their lives to building understanding and improving treatment. Check out a book or a video or a podcast on a mental health topic that interests or impacts you — the more you know, the better able you are able to take care of yourself & others!
Getting connected with a therapist is a great way to take action for your own mental health, whether or not something feels “wrong”. Therapy can help you not only learn how to cope with struggle, but also develop self-awareness, improve your relationships, understand your thoughts and emotions, and so much more!
Together, we can work to shift our mental health culture from awareness to action. Through this shift, we can continue to improve treatments, increase resources and support more people on their mental health journeys.