I Wish More People Observed Mental Health Awareness Month
Until a year ago, I did not equate May with Mental Health Awareness Month (MHAM). Flowers, sunshine, summer break, and my birthday most definitely, but not mental health. My battle with depression completely opened my eyes to mental illness and mental health as a whole, and I can confidently say that one month, even one year, dedicated to the topic does not do it justice. But to be fair, it is a hopeful and actionable start.
The Creation of Mental Health Awareness Month Reflects a Changing Society
Mental health issues have existed as long as the human race. So why, not until 2013, 100,000 years after the first anatomically modern Homo sapiens walked the Earth, was there finally a month dedicated to mental health awareness?1 The simple answer is stigma.
Mental health stigma can be pervasive and extremely difficult to eradicate. Only in recent years has the taboo of discussing mental illness decreased, and the openness to understanding more about mental wellness increased. In a study conducted over the span of two years, participants were surveyed twice--once in 2017 and once in 2019--71 percent of participants "felt more comfortable talking to someone about their mental health" in 2019 versus 2017.2
This is a testament to the shifting mentality and acceptance of society regarding mental health. Although the trajectory is trending downwards, now is not the time to ease awareness and educational efforts because the truth is, there are still many people who are resistant to this change.
Is Lack of MHAM Observance an Indicator of Resistance or Unfamiliarity?
I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, and Mental Health Awareness Month observance is no different. This is not to say that I have not been underwhelmed with the lack of hype and participation surrounding the month as opposed to other initiatives. That said, I understand there can be many factors that play a role in the lack of observance, and likewise, it can be difficult to discern intentional push-back from lack of awareness.
Our Contributions Make a Difference in the Fight to End Mental Health Stigma
Like many others, I have been overwhelmed with tragic stories of individuals struggling with mental health amidst the crisis we are currently living through. There are times when I have felt like I am not doing enough, that my duty as a mental health advocate has not been fulfilled. As a result, I had to take a hard look at myself and reflect on what I could control.
My goal moving forward, and maybe other people's too, is simply to start with one and hope for many. If I can make just one person see the importance of mental health awareness and access to mental health resources, then I know I have made a difference. It is too much of a burden to take on the responsibility of an entire society to be informed and want to change; it is a hard fight and a fight we really cannot win alone. Everyone must do their part.
Jack, J. (2022, May 12). I Wish More People Observed Mental Health Awareness Month, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, May 23 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2022/5/i-wish-more-people-observed-mental-health-awareness-month