Mental Health Awareness: 5 Ways to Spread the Word
If you break your arm, the cast you wear during your recovery shows everyone that you’re healing. If you strain your back, the change in your gait gives others a visible sign that you’re injured. But if you are struggling with a mental health condition, the signs aren’t so obvious to others.
That’s why raising mental health awareness is so important. Mental illness is just as real as physical illness and it affects nearly every part of our life, from our thoughts and feelings to our interactions with others. Yet, too often, people suffer from mental illness in silence.
Mental Health Awareness Month each May gives everyone the opportunity to learn the facts about mental health, reduce harmful stigmas and become an advocate for yourself and others.
What are the facts about mental health?
The first step in mental health awareness is to know the facts.
- Mental illness is more common than most people think, affecting an estimated one in every five U.S. adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health .
- Females (27.2%) are diagnosed more often than males (18.1%), and mental illness is most prevalent in young adults ages 18-25 (33.7%) .
- Anxiety disorders rank as the number one cause of emergency room visits annually, and females are 60% more likely than males to develop anxiety disorders .
- Nearly one in 10 U.S. adults will experience a mood disorder or an eating disorder in their lifetime .
- In 2021 alone, an estimated 14.1 million U.S. adults suffered from a serious mental illness. These include conditions such as major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) .
- Many mental health conditions carry a strong genetic link. For example, OCD carries a heritability rate between 35% and 50% and is more likely to develop in first-degree relatives such as siblings or offspring .
What is mental health stigma?
Well-known personalities like Olympic gymnast Simone Biles are openly sharing their mental health struggles while movies and television shows like Ted Lasso are normalizing therapy, helping to create a positive national conversation about mental illness. Yet mental health stigma still exists, and it carries some potentially dangerous consequences.
Stats from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) show that, with proper mental health treatment, between 70% and 90% of people experience a significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life. Yet more than half of people with mental illness don’t receive the treatment they need for their mental illness due to stigma, according to the American Pyschiatric Association (APA).
Stigma can create harmful feelings of embarrassment and shame in people with mental health disorders and in the loved ones who support them. It can lead to social isolation, reduced hope and lower self-esteem.
Five ways to spread mental health awareness
At Eating Recovery Center and Pathlight Mood & Anxiety Center (ERC Pathlight), we are committed to raising mental health awareness, reducing stigma, and improving the detection and treatment of mental health disorders. We need your help to help break the stigma for good.
Here are five things you can do to support the mental health community today.
- Educate yourself about mental health.
The more you dedicate yourself to learning about specific mental health conditions, the easier it will be for you to create the time and space for important conversations with others. Nonprofit organizations like NAMI offer resources you can use to understand mental illness, as well as opportunities to be a mental health advocate.
Tip: Learn the basics on mood and anxiety disorders from our own Dr. Howard Weeks.
- Discover the myths and facts about treatment.
Physical illnesses typically have routine and specific treatments. Mental illness is much more complex. Psychotherapy may be effective for some people. Others may find relief from a combination of psychotherapy and prescription medications. By learning more about how providers care for mental health problems, you can help guide people in need during their journey.
Tip: Find out how multiple providers can optimize mental health treatment in this blog post.
- Address stigmas.
When you see or hear stigmatizing information about mental health, use it as an opportunity to provide helpful, thoughtful and factual education to others. Consider equating mental health treatment with physical health treatment and draw comparisons to help others understand. Also, observe your own stigmas and inherent biases toward mental health and work to overcome them.
Tip: Read this blog post on silencing your inner critic and letting go of shame.
- Share your story.
About three in four young teens seeking information online about depression are looking to hear other people’s stories, according to a national survey from 2020. If you have a personal experience with mental illness, sharing your story can give hope to people who are suffering in silence and help them move out of the shadows.
Tip: Discover how to share your mental health story in this blog post.
- Get involved.
Join other passionate advocates for mental health. Attend a local NAMI walk or find other events in your community that raise awareness for mental illness while working to end stigma.
Tip: Join the Say It Brave community for events and resources that support recovery.
Where to find mental health support and treatment
If you’re looking to build your support community, ERC Pathlight offers free support groups for people living with anxiety, trauma, OCD and mood disorders. We have a variety of groups that are open to patients, families and community members.
Need resources to support your own mental health? Call us at 877-825-8584 or learn more about Pathlight At Home, our virtual intensive outpatient program for mood and anxiety disorders.
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- 5 Ways to Cope With Climate Change Anxiety
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- National Institute of Mental Health. (2021). Mental illness. Retrieved April 18, 2023 from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness
- Pathlight Mood & Anxiety Center. (n.d.). Anxiety disorder treatment, symptoms, & signs. Retrieved April 18, 2023 from https://www.pathlightbh.com/conditions/anxiety-disorders
- Deloitte Access Economics. The Social and Economic Cost of Eating Disorders in the United States of America: A Report for the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders and the Academy for Eating Disorders. June 2020.
- Pathlight Mood & Anxiety Center. (n.d.). What is OCD? Treatment, symptoms, & causes. Retrieved April 18, 2023 from https://www.pathlightbh.com/conditions/ocd