Mental Health Awareness Month
Mental Health Awareness Month is celebrated in May every year in the United States. The date is commemorated with numerous public events, media, and television screenings. This awareness is created through the National Council for Mental Health and with funding from NARLS (the National Association for Residential Mental Health). This month encourages people to become aware of their mental and emotional well-being. It also promotes unity among mental health providers. This support is valuable to all individuals regardless of their specialty.
Awareness of mental health awareness helps decrease the number of people with mental illnesses or disorders. As a whole, mental disorders and physical illnesses are more prevalent in certain groups of people than in others. Those with disabilities or limited mobility are at an increased risk for mental illnesses or psychological conditions. Substance abuse or dependence, anxiety disorders, depression, or schizophrenia are also common among this group of people. Creating a community around mental illness, particularly those who may be suffering from it, provides support, exposure, and information on the disease.
With mental illness stigma becoming more common to those who suffer from mental health issues, there is a great need to fight against it. Stigma has negative implications for sufferers as well as those around them. Because of its impact, many who suffer from mental illness decide not to seek treatment for their condition, which increases the severity of the disease and its likelihood for a full recovery. By creating awareness of mental health awareness, communities can reduce stigma and draw in those who otherwise may not have been open about their mental health issues.
One of the ways we promote awareness of mental health is through the CRA (credit equivalent to the number on your driver’s license). The CRA is a simple two-digit code used by most area hospitals to identify patients who have been treated for severe or life-threatening mental illnesses. This code is assigned when the patient first arrives for care and is taken from their medical chart during discharge. However, it stays with the patient throughout their lives. Each time they are given a check for treatment, the check is replaced by the same number, making it easy for everyone to track the person’s history. Mental illnesses are no longer a private issue but a public one that requires some hard-nosed communication between patients and health care providers.
Other ways to promote mental health awareness are through participation in community mental health groups. Through these groups, participants share their stories of coping with mental illnesses, provide information on treatment options, share their progress and challenges, and connect with each other. If you belong to a professional mental health organization, contact your local office and ask about support groups in your community. Many organizations have websites where you can find information about meetings, how to volunteer, or key dates for upcoming events. Some organizations even offer support groups specifically for members who are newly diagnosed with mental disorders.
The stigma associated with mental health awareness has decreased over the past decade. There has been more education about the disorder, the signs, symptoms, and recovery options. The stigma has lessened because those living with the disorder feel less alone and more confident in their ability to lead a normal life. People diagnosed with any mental illness are still stigmatized, but it’s a dwindling minority and has significantly decreased over the last year.