The Importance of Acknowledging Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month, observed in May since 1949, emphasizes fighting stigma, supporting mental health, and early intervention, especially post-pandemic.
Mental Health Awareness month logo

Mental Health Awareness Month has been recognized since 1949 in the United States. The awareness month started off as a week that was launched by the founder, Clifford W. Beers, of Mental Health America.

Mental Health Awareness Month, observed every year during the month of May, is an opportune time to fight stigma, provide support, increase awareness, and remind individuals of the services and resources that exist to support the millions of people impacted by mental health issues.

According to the World Health Organization, global prevalence of depression and anxiety increased by 25% in the initial year of the COVID pandemic. One major explanation for the increase is the unprecedented stress caused by the social isolation resulting from the pandemic. Linked to this were constraints on people’s ability to work, seek support from loved ones and engage in their communities.

The Global Burden of Disease study shows that the pandemic has affected the mental health of young people and that they are disproportionally at risk of suicidal and self-harming behaviors. We have seen evidence of this throughout our own country in our schools and by the providers of mental health services that continue to be extremely busy.

All of us who are concerned about our youth and the prevalence of mental health issues have felt the severity of what has been going on in their lives. The impact of trauma, adversity, the aftermath of COVID and other related issues have left so many of our students in dysregulation, anxiety, depression and yes, with suicidal tendencies.

To respond to the mental health needs in our country, SAMHSA has released the 2024 Mental Health Awareness Month Toolkit. This kit features:

  • Social media content to help spread awareness about the vital role mental health plays in our well-being, promote acceptance and support of anyone living with a mental illness, and share key resources.
  • Best practices for engaging in healthy discussions about mental health.
  • Promotional materials for mental health awareness in May and beyond.

The most important aspect of helping our students with their mental health issues is early intervention and intentional care and support for their needs. Often students are resistant to get help, so it is important for parents, caregivers, school staff and community members to be aware of the signs of mental health struggles and provide opportunities for professional help and support for our students. In so doing, we may be able to mitigate some of these symptoms by helping students find the support they need to navigate some of their symptoms and find a road to recovery and healing. This should not just be one month out of the year but a constant sense of mission that we have to preserve the future of our youth.

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