Positive mental health is an essential part of your well-being. It influences the way you think, feel, and behave. It also affects how you relate with others, handle stress, and make decisions. When your mental health suffers, your physical, emotional, and psychological health suffers as well.
Unfortunately, living with mental illness is oftentimes an isolating experience. Symptoms cause people to withdraw from friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances. The negative stigma associated with mental illness can likely make it feel like something that should be kept private. Struggling is sometimes perceived as a sign of weakness.
In reality, more people have difficulties with their mental health than you may think. Mental health struggles affect millions of people throughout the United States and the world as a whole. Despite its prevalence, people still feel the need to keep their troubles to themselves.
National Mental Health Awareness Month exists to combat this expectation. Every May, organizations come together to raise awareness surrounding mental health and its effects. By increasing public understanding, clinicians and allies alike hope that more people will seek the help they need.
National Mental Health Awareness Month was first established in 1949 by Mental Health America (then known as the National Association for Mental Health). Conversations about mental health were few and far between during the mid-1900s, but NAMH hoped to change that.
The emergence of National Mental Health Awareness Month aimed to shatter the stigma surrounding poor mental health and mental illness. It took a few decades, but the work that started more than 70 years ago now has a widespread impact.
This year’s theme is Back to Basics, recognizing that sometimes the simple building blocks can have the greatest impact. Mental Health America’s goal for May 2022 is to provide foundational knowledge and information about mental health, mental health conditions, and the options available for anyone struggling.
By decreasing stigma and increasing awareness, Mental Health America and other mental health organizations hope to encourage people to seek help. There are plenty of options for anyone struggling with their mental health; all you need to do is reach out and ask.
Although mental health conditions can cause people to feel alone, more people suffer from mental illness than you might realize. According to the Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration, 21% of U.S. adults (about 52.9 million people) experienced a mental illness in the last year. 5.6%, or 14.2 million people, experienced serious mental illness.
The prevalence of mental illness is higher among females than males (25.8% and 15.8% respectively). Young adults experience higher rates of mental illness than their older counterparts, with data revealing the following breakdown:
Adolescents also experience notable rates of mental health struggles, with an estimated 49.5% of those ages 13 to 18 meeting the criteria for any mental illness. 22.2% of adolescents with mental illness have severe impairment from their condition.
Clearly, mental illness does not discriminate. It affects people regardless of age, gender, race, socioeconomic status, and more. The need for greater public understanding and access to help is more important than ever, and National Mental Health Awareness Month hopes to provide that.
Thankfully, research also shows that many of those struggling with their mental health do receive help. The same study revealed that 46.2% of people with any mental illness received mental health services. Additionally, 64.5% of those with serious mental illness received the treatment services necessary.
At the same time, that also means 53.8% of people with any mental illness and 35.5% of those with serious mental illness didn’t receive help. When that many people go without the treatment services they need, there is still much work to do.
However, some positive strides have come as a result of the increase in mental health awareness over the last few decades. These include things like:
The more people understand the effects of mental health, the more those with mental health struggles will receive the services they need. Eventually, these campaigns will ensure that mental health services become more widely available and as a result, the widespread impact of mental health lessens.
1. Youth.gov. (2022). May is National Mental Health Month.
2. Mental Health America. (2022). Back to Basics.
3. Govinfo. (2021). National Mental Health Awareness Month.
3. National Institute of Mental Health. (2021). Mental Illness.