While May has been deemed “Mental Health Awareness Month” it is important to remember that our mental health should be a priority 365 days a year.
Our mental health plays a key role in not just our mental well-being but our physical health and well-being as well. Unfortunately though, unlike physical ailments, mental health conditions are still often viewed in a negative light. This stigma has long existed and, while it has started to change, it still has a long way to go.
People who struggle with their mental health often don’t seek help or even talk about it because they are afraid to be vulnerable or don’t want to be looked at in a negative light. It’s important to remember that mental health is a form of health, and just like with physical ailments, if you are hurting mentally, it is ok to seek treatment.
At Discovery Institute in New Jersey, we think it is important to raise awareness for mental health not just in May but the other 11 months of the year as well.
History of Mental Health Awareness Month
Mental Health Awareness Month was started by the then National Association of Mental Health (now known as Mental Health America) in 1949. The program was initially launched as Mental Health Week and in 1963, with the backing of Congress and President John F. Kennedy, Mental Health Week was transformed into Mental Health Month.
According to Mental Health America, the goal of Mental Health Awareness Month is to do the following:
- Improve the overall attitude and perception as it related to mental illness and people living with mental health conditions
- Improve the services that are available to those suffering from mental health conditions
- Promote overall positive mental health
Prevalence of Mental Health
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in every 5 adults (roughly 57 million people) in the United States suffers from a mental health condition. Below are some additional mental health-related statistics from NAMI:
- 1 in 20 adults suffers from a serious mental illness
- 1 in 6 children in the U.S. between the ages of 6 and 17 suffer from a mental health disorder
- Nearly half of all people that suffer from a mental health condition develop that condition by the age of 14
- The LGBTQ community suffers from mental illness at a disproportionally high rate with roughly 50% of all LGBTQ people having some type of mental health disorder
- Anxiety disorder is the most common mental health condition in the United States (19% of all people with a mental illness have an anxiety disorder)
- In 2021, less than 50% of adults who had a mental illness sought treatment
In New Jersey specifically, the statistics around mental illness match closely with the national averages. Like the rest of the country, roughly 1 in 5 adults in New Jersey suffer from a mental health condition. That comes out to roughly 1.1 million people or more than 3 times the population of Newark.
Below are some additional New Jersey-specific stats relating to mental health from NAMI:
- In February 2021 alone, roughly 42% of all adults in New Jersey reported symptoms of anxiety or depression
- Over 60% of children in New Jersey between the ages of 12 and 17 who suffer from depression did not receive any professional care or treatment
Common Mental Health Disorders
There are many different types of mental health disorders. These disorders often come with their own set of symptoms. It is important to be able to spot these symptoms at the onset so that either you or a loved one can seek professional treatment right away before the symptoms worsen.
Below are some of the more common mental health conditions:
Depression is a mood disorder characterized by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities. It can be caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.
Anxiety disorder is an umbrella term used to describe any mental health condition that involves feelings of excessive worry, fear, and/or nervousness.
Some examples of anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Panic Disorder
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Specific Phobias
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that is characterized by episodes of both depression and mania. People with bipolar disorder may experience periods of extremely high energy, impulsivity, and euphoria, followed by periods of low mood, lethargy, and despair.
Eating disorders are a type of mental health condition that involves the brain having an unhealthy relationship with not just food but body image as well. Someone with an eating disorder may eat too much or not enough depending on their views on food and body image as a whole.
Examples of eating disorders include:
- Binge-eating disorder
Mental Health Awareness Month FAQs
Mental Health Awareness Month is important because it helps reduce the stigma surrounding mental health conditions and promotes the understanding of said conditions. It also provides an opportunity to educate people about the importance of mental health treatment.
As we have touched on, many who suffer from mental illness don’t seek proper, professional treatment. Instead, as often is the case, they will turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to self-medicate to feel better, even if just for a brief moment. Turning to drugs and alcohol can not only worsen an already existing mental health condition but it can also increase the risk of the development of a substance use disorder.
Signs that someone may be struggling with a mental health condition include changes in mood or behavior, withdrawal from social activities, trouble sleeping or eating, and feelings of hopelessness or despair.
How To Observe Mental Health Awareness Month
Whether you or a loved one is struggling with your mental health, or you just want to get out and help raise awareness for the cause, there are several things that you can do during May in observance of Mental Health Awareness Month.
With anything in life, education is important. If you want to learn more about mental health, whether it’s to help yourself or someone you know, take the time to learn not just about mental health and the various mental health conditions that exist, but also the resources available for those that need help.
Reading books or articles, attending a mental health seminar, or even speaking with a mental health professional are all great ways to educate yourself and learn more about mental health.
Once you have “studied up” and learned about mental health and mental health conditions, share what you learned. You can post information on social media or even just have a conversation with your friends and family to help spread awareness and, most importantly, help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.
There is a bevy of podcasts, videos, and other forms of media that are available to help promote a more positive outlook when it comes to mental health in addition to helping provide support for those who may be struggling.
Organizations in your community may host events for Mental Health Awareness Month. If they do, consider participating in one to do your part in raising awareness and even funds for vital mental health services. If there are no events already set up in your community, consider taking the initiative and starting one up on your own.
While it’s always important to check in with those that may be struggling, let the month of May be yet another reminder that it is always good to check in with friends, family members, and loved ones on occasion just to see how they are doing.
Not everyone that is struggling with their mental health makes their struggles obvious. Many try and hide their problems to not burden those around them. Sometimes, though, all it takes is someone calling, texting, or dropping by for a visit for them to know that they have people in their life that care about them and want them to be healthy and happy.
Raise Awareness For Mental Health At Discovery Institute
At Discovery Institute in New Jersey, we know that mental health should be a priority 7 days a week, 365 days a year. That’s why in addition to our substance abuse treatment programs, we also offer several treatment programs for mental health.
For more information on our addiction and mental health services, contact us today.
Dr. Joseph Ranieri D.O. earned his BS in Pharmacy at Temple University School of Pharmacy in 1981 and His Doctorate Degree in Osteopathic Medicine at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1991. He is Board Certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and a Diplomate of the American Board of Preventive Medicine Addiction Certification. Dr. Ranieri has lectured extensively to physicians, nurses, counselors and laypeople about the Disease of Addiction throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania since 2012.