In years past, mental health problems were treated with an “out of sight, out of mind” approach. People with mental health issues were often isolated from the world simply because others did not understand their conditions. Doctors at the time also lacked the necessary technology or resources to properly treat them.
As a result, mental health patients suffered years neglect and misdiagnosis. Thankfully, public perceptions of these issues have changed, and more people now hold compassionate attitudes toward those individuals struggling with mental illness. Much of that positive change has been led by awareness initiatives like Mental Health Awareness Month.
A Month for Advocacy
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Throughout the month, mental health providers, researchers and advocacy groups encourage greater public awareness about mental illnesses and the people suffering from them. National Mental Health Awareness Month was first established in 1949. The public’s perception of mental health issues has since seen several drastic yet positive shifts. Mental Health America is the main sponsoring organization for Mental Health Awareness Month, and operates various events across the country each year in May.
Each week of May encourages the public to explore various aspects of mental health and learn how they can make a positive impact at the local and national level. Consider the following dates and think of ways you can contribute to Mental Health Awareness Month.
Mental Health Week – May 8 to 14
This week aims to drive awareness about individuals dealing with a mental health condition or disorder. It’s vital to show the public how people with mental health issues cope on a daily basis. Doing so helps to break down the lingering stigma surrounding mental illness.
One of the key takeaways from Mental Health Week is the difference between surviving and thriving. When we bolster awareness and show compassion for the people struggling with mental health complications, we help those individuals thrive in their personal lives. This compassionate approach also encourages these individuals to seek treatment and support.
Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week – May 7 to 13
Many mental health conditions manifest early in life. Children lack the communication skills and emotional maturity of an adult, and often these limitations prevent kids from recognizing their own mental illness. Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week is a great time to encourage parents to examine their kids’ behavior from new perspectives. After all, failure to diagnose problems early on leads to more serious issues developing later in life.
National Prevention Week – May 14 to 20
The scientific and medical communities have recognized the link between mental health and substance abuse for years. National Prevention Week aims to help individuals with mental illnesses seek out healthy treatments and coping strategies instead of self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.
Substance abuse recovery is a long, arduous road. A mental illness can make it even more grueling and difficult. National Prevention Week also encourages community involvement, the sharing of educational resources and taking time to discussing the risks of substance abuse with friends and family.
“Risky Business” in 2017
Each year, Mental Health America devises a theme for Mental Health Awareness Month. For May of 2017, the theme is “Risky Business.” This year, Mental Health America encourages others to learn about and identify high-risk behaviors common among those with mental health issues. If left untreated, these symptoms can easily lead to harmful coping strategies, such as substance abuse, and a host of other issues.
If you’re interested in hosting an event or participating in another way, Mental Health America offers a comprehensive toolkit for you to explore. Take a look at the ideas included for Mental Health Awareness Month events, and think about hosting one. It is also important to consider the ways that you can encourage the people in your area with mental health problems to seek healthy treatments.