May is Mental Health Awareness Month. For the past 74 years, Mental Health America (MHA) has proudly commemorated May as a special month to celebrate and promote ways to take care of our mental health. First founded in 1909 as the National Committee for Mental Hygiene by Clifford W. Beers, it’s mission “is driven by its commitment to promote mental health as a critical part of overall wellness, including prevention services for all…” It later became known as the National Mental Health Association and now is under the name Mental Health America. It is the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and promoting mental health as a critical part of overall wellness. Although there are many days and ways to celebrate aspects of mental health (such as October 10 as World Mental Health Day, Time to Talk Day, etc.), the commemoration in May focuses on our mental health needs and how to take care ourselves and loved ones for a better tomorrow, and for coming generations. And don’t forget – this year May 18 is Mental Health Action Day, where businesses, advocacy groups, organizations, schools, leaders, and everyday people are encouraged to shift mental health culture from awareness to action. You will see links to different resources and ideas to act on at the bottom of this post.
Each year in May, MHA selects a theme and releases a mental health toolkit for outreach activities. You may see various professionals or well-known figures hold special events surrounding this focus, promoting education and resources. The 2023 campaign slogan is “Look Around, Look Within”. MHA is asking individuals and mental health professionals to take a closer look at the ways our surroundings affect our mental health. Making our environments as healthy as possible and adapting surroundings to improve overall health and well-being encourages mental well-being.
The specific topics about vital conditions for well-being include:
- Safe, Stable Housing, and Home Conditions – A home should feel comfortable, supportive and calm. Stable housing allows individuals to develop routines and connection with their local communities (which are beneficial to mental health).
- Community – A strong sense of community is a social determinant of health; people can share support, resources and celebrations.
- Nature – Spending time in nature is linked to positive mental health outcomes, including improved focus, lower stress levels, better mood and reduced risk of developing mental health conditions. It also helps develop a sense of connection to yourself, community and purpose.
There are many ways for professionals and individuals to observe Mental Health Awareness Month. By taking care of yourself, developing strong self-care practices and seeking the right treatment are among them. In the links below you will find lists of ways to incorporate awareness into your everyday life. One good first step may be to take an online mental health screening and use the opportunity to seek the support you feel you may need. Find resources and information about what impacts your personal mental health, along with suggestions for making changes and improvements, and how to seek help. There are many tools available to use for coping when change seems out of reach. Talk with your peers about mental health and help continue to break stigmas attached to mental health.
Remember, you are not alone!
Mental Health Awareness Month is a celebration of changing attitudes and outlooks on mental illnesses. More and more people and organizations are taking successful steps to observe mental health at home and in our communities. Successful efforts, outreach and a plethora of resources are out there for us.
Ideas to get you started for action and celebration:
Mental Health Screening resource:
MHA resources: pdf and links