Throughout the month of May, GoodTherapy.org is excited to participate in Mental Health Awareness Month (referred to in some circles as Mental Health Month) for the 10th time since the company was founded in 2007. In that time, we’ve seen steps forward and backward as policies and conversations have shifted along with access to mental health care. Even as some strides have been made to promote ethical mental health treatment and reduce stigma—two of the most important aspects of our mission and vision—there remains much work to be done.
A drug overdose epidemic, for example, is causing more deaths annually than car crashes in the United States. This trend is quickly turning into a generational struggle as more than 50,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2015—the most such fatalities in a year in American history. Numerous disparities in mental health among minority populations must be addressed. African-American adults, for example, are still 20% more likely to report serious psychological distress than their white counterparts, yet they are less likely to receive or have access to treatment for common mental health issues such as depression. Additionally, too many old myths about psychotherapy and mental health issues continue to persist and hinder needed change and access to treatment. Simply put, there are many areas in which we can do better, locally and globally.
Mental Health America launched Mental Health Awareness Month in 1949 to increase awareness of mental health issues, reduce stigma, and share resources to help people cope, live a higher quality of life, and heal emotional and psychological wounds. We believe the more than 2 million monthly visitors to GoodTherapy.org and the more than 350,000 people engaging with us on our social media channels are some of the most powerful agents of change as the month ahead unfolds. We humbly ask you to tune in and look for ways to increase your own understanding, challenge stigma, and help us support mental health awareness in the following ways:
Know How to Help Someone in a Crisis
About 1 in 5 people will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime. These are our friends, family members, and loved ones who may be experiencing symptoms of mental health issues that aren’t obvious or visible. Keep resources on hand, learn how to recognize the signs, and know where you would go for help if someone you care about were to experience a crisis. Here are a few resources we’ve developed you can keep on hand:
What to Do If You Are in Crisis: http://www.goodtherapy.org/in-crisis.html
Suicide Prevention: How to Help Someone with Suicidal Thoughts: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/suicide-prevention-how-to-help-someone-with-suicidal-thoughts
How to Help Someone Who Needs Therapy: http://www.goodtherapy.org/how-to-help.html
Share Your Experiences
Whether it’s a story about treatment or how your life is impacted by a mental health issue, sharing your experiences can be powerful for you and others. During Mental Health Awareness Month, we encourage readers to consider sharing their stories with us (click the corresponding link below for more info), sharing with someone they trust, or sharing with a licensed therapist if their experiences are causing distress.
Find a Therapist: http://www.goodtherapy.org/find-therapist.html
Submit Your “Share Your Story” Contribution to GoodTherapy.org: http://www.goodtherapy.org/submit-your-story.html
Read “Share Your Story” Blog Posts: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/category/share-your-story/
The Most Important Thing You Can Say to a Sex Abuse Survivor: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/the-most-important-thing-you-can-say-to-a-sex-abuse-survivor-0226154
Understand the Power of Language and How It Can Contribute to Stigma
Stigma toward mental health issues and treatment often stems from the way we come to understand concepts through pop culture and influential others. Many commonly used phrases and idioms can contribute to misunderstanding and a reluctance to seek treatment for fear of being perceived as “weak” or “crazy.” Help challenge the stigma in your corner of the world by spending some time thinking and reading about how words and experiences may feel from a different perspective.
Mental Health Matters: 8 Stigmatizing Phrases to Stop Using: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/mental-health-matters-8-stigmatizing-phrases-to-stop-using-050715
Words Matter: How Language Affects How You Relate, Part 1: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/words-matter-how-language-affects-how-you-relate-0309175
Words Matter: How Language Affects How You Relate, Part 2: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/words-matter-how-language-affects-how-you-relate-part-2-0405175
The Top 10 Myths and Misconceptions About Depression: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/the-top-10-myths-and-misconceptions-about-depression-0528154
The Myths of Therapy: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/myths-of-therapy/
Take Care of Yourself
One of the best ways we can contribute to improved mental health, better relationships, and healthier communities is to make sure we are managing ourselves and meeting our own needs. For people who tend to help others first, this can be feel selfish and difficult. However, it may be helpful to apply the same concept in which airline crews tell you to don your own oxygen mask before assisting others. Contact a mental health professional or treatment center if you need help with this. Some resources that may help include:
Find a Therapist: http://www.goodtherapy.org/find-therapist.html
Find a Treatment Center: http://www.goodtherapy.org/treatment-centers
Join the Conversation
Throughout the month, you’ll likely see some hashtags related to Mental Health Awareness Month on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms. It’s common for some mental health organizations to organize conversations around specific hashtags, but there are also some general ones people can use to be part of the conversation. Some we’ll be using include:
Feel free to send us a message or leave a comment telling us what hashtags you’re using. We hope you’ll join us this month in raising #MentalHealthAwareness, working to #endthestigma, and prioritizing #MentalHealthMatters online and in communities around the globe.
Drug Overdoses Now Kill More Americans Than Guns. (2016, December 9). Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/drug-overdose-deaths-heroin-opioid-prescription-painkillers-more-than-guns/
Mental Health America. (2016). Black & African American Communities and Mental Health. Retrieved from http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/african-american-mental-health
National Alliance on Mental Illness. (October 2015). Mental Health By the Numbers. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2017, April 26). About the Epidemic. Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/