According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. are affected by mental health conditions. Mental Health Awareness Month helps raise awareness about the prevalence of mental health conditions, reduce stigma and encourage people to find and seek treatment sooner.
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What Is Mental Illness?
A mental health disorder, sometimes referred to as a mental illness, is a condition that can affect a person’s thoughts, moods, behavior and emotions. There are several types of mental health disorders, which are typically categorized based on which area of functioning they affect.
Common mental health disorders include:
- Anxiety disorders
- Stress-related disorders
- Personality disorders
- Eating disorders
- Substance use disorders
What Is Mental Health Awareness Month?
Mental Health Awareness Month is held every May and was created by Mental Health America in 1949 to help spread the message that everyone — even those who don’t struggle personally — should care about mental health.
The annual campaign serves to create solidarity and reduce stigma toward mental health conditions, which allows people to take advantage of life-saving resources without fear of judgment. Simply starting a conversation can save a life, and Mental Health Awareness Month seeks to make that conversation happen.
The 2021 Campaign
This year’s theme of “Tools 2 Thrive” revolves around providing resources, tips and other information to help people improve their mental health. The COVID-19 outbreak has placed large amounts of stress and uncertainty on many Americans, and mental health resources are more important than ever.
By raising awareness about the many resources available, the Tools 2 Thrive campaign can help people face difficult situations — now and in the future. Even those who are not struggling with their mental health can help by sharing resources, providing support and showing compassion toward others who face mental health conditions.
Mental Health Statistics
In 2018, approximately 47.6 million people experienced a mental illness. About 1 in 25 experienced a serious mental illness that significantly interferes with major life activities, including work or social life.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) aims to show society the frequency of mental health issues among American adults, and many of their statistics are eye-opening:
- 17.7 million adults live with major depression
- 7 million adults struggle with bipolar disorder
- 1.5 million adults have schizophrenia
- 42 million adults have an anxiety disorder
- Depression is the leading cause of disability across the world
In many cases, mental health disorders co-occur with addiction. In 2018, there were approximately 20.3 million Americans aged 12 or older who struggled with a substance use disorder. Of those 20.3 million, 9.2 million adults had co-occurring mental health disorders.
Understanding Its Role in Co-Occurring Disorders
People can also struggle with a co-occurring disorder, which is when a person experiences a mental health condition and substance use disorder simultaneously. Just as a mental health disorder forms from a chemical imbalance in the brain, so do substance use disorders.
Mental health conditions involve abnormal chemical makeup from birth, which can progress over time. Individuals with substance use disorders have chemical makeups that are drastically altered after the consumption of a substance.
Raising Awareness for Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day
Along with an entire month dedicated to mental health awareness, May 9 is recognized as National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day to remind individuals that adults are not the only ones who struggle with mental health conditions. Children and teenagers make up a large percentage of individuals who have experienced some kind of mental health issue in their life. It’s estimated that around 1 in 5 adolescents will experience a severe mental disorder at some point.
Some other adolescent-based statistics include:
- Half of all chronic mental health problems begin by the age of 14
- 16.5% of youth struggle with a mental health condition
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death in people aged 10–34, with 90% of suicide victims showing untreated symptoms of mental health conditions
- Teen depression is also on the rise – 15% of American teenagers experienced major depressive episodes in 2018.
With statistics like these, it may be the wake-up call America needs to truly understand the far-reaching grasp that mental health disorders have on the general population.
More than 1,100 communities and 170 national organizations are creating virtual activities and hosting online events to spread awareness this month. Thanks to their efforts, May will feature many opportunities to provide resources to those struggling with mental health and the effects of COVID-19.
Ways To Cure The Stigma
Education is one of the most important ways to cure the stigma around mental health. Educating children, teens and adults on different kinds of mental health conditions helps normalize talking about mental health. Teaching society how mental health disorders are formed is also crucial in eliminating stigma because it reminds people that suffering from a mental health condition is not a choice, but an ailment that a person must learn to manage.
Along with showing society how widespread mental health disorders are, it’s important to inform individuals about resources that can teach proper coping skills and improve mental wellbeing. As of 2018, there were 11,682 available facilities that could help treat individuals struggling with mental health issues, a substance use disorder or both.
How You Can Get Involved
Increasing mental health awareness and decreasing stigma are critical for a better future. Here are some ways you can get involved to either raise awareness or reduce stigma.
Raise awareness by:
- Sharing informative articles about Mental Health Awareness Month on social media
- Showing your support by changing your profile picture and cover photo with Mental Health Awareness banners
- Using hashtags like NAMI’s #NotAlone to support Mental Health Awareness Month campaigns
- If you’re comfortable, sharing your own story to help reduce shame and stigma
- Showing your support for people who open up about their struggles with mental health
As encouraging as people can be about seeking mental health treatment, the stigma surrounding mental health treatment can be just as discouraging. The more Americans are educated about the severity of mental health disorders, the more likely it is that they will no longer view mental health treatment in such a negative light.
Reduce the stigma by:
- Having open and honest conversations about mental health with the people around you
- Checking in on your friends and family
- Sharing what you do to help maintain good mental health, including during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Showing someone there is more to them than their mental health condition and that they are not alone
- Encouraging others to help end mental health stigma
- Taking on advocacy issues
- Attend a virtual National Alliance of Mental Health walk
By increasing awareness and reducing mental health stigma, we can help create a brighter future where people know how to prevent mental health disorders, treat mental health conditions and feel comfortable asking for help and seeking treatment.
If you or someone you know is living with co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders, The Recovery Village is here to help. We offer telehealth services that allow people to receive life-changing treatment from the comfort of home, and we continue to provide on-site services for addiction recovery. To learn more about our comprehensive treatment programs and facility locations, contact us today to speak with a representative.
National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Mental Health By The Numbers.” September 2019. Accessed April 28, 2020.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Learn About Mental Health.” January 26, 2018. Accessed April 28, 2020.
Mental Health America. “Mental Health Month 2021.” Accessed April 21, 2021.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States.” 2019. Accessed April 28, 2020.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Adolescent Mental Health Basics.” February 25, 2019. Accessed April 28, 2020.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.” April 16, 2020. Accessed April 28, 2020.
Statista. “Number of mental health treatment facilities in the U.S. in 2018.” October 2019. Accessed April 28, 2020.