By Dr. David Woo - May 16, 2019
Learn How You Can Make a Difference
Mental Health Awareness Month is a time of the year dedicated to raising awareness about mental health conditions in order to reduce the stigma surrounding them, promote practices that support emotional well-being, and to encourage more people suffering from mental health conditions to seek help.
The stigma around depression and anxiety can actually deter people who need help from reaching out and asking for it. So throughout May we’d like to ask you to join us in helping break the stigma associated with depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. If you’re not sure what you can do to help, keep reading.
Become more familiar with common mental health problems
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, roughly one in five people in the United States will experience a mental health issue in a given year. (1) According to the World Health Organization, one in four people in the entire world will experience a mental health disorder or a neurological disorder at some point in their lives. (2) These numbers can be surprising and reveal that many people you know, or even you, have at some point or are currently experiencing a mental health issue.
The more you know about mental health issues, the more likely you are to be able to support loved ones who may need help. For example, knowing the warning signs of a mental health issue can help you identify if you or someone you know needs help. (3) This is especially true of common problems like depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.
Talk about mental health as if it were any other health topic
Talking about any topic in a lower voice or in a secretive manner can give the impression that you feel the topic is embarrassing or shameful. Mental health problems are medical issues just like any other, so if you’re among close family and friends with whom you often discuss your physical health issues, consider talking more openly about your mental health as well. Working through a mental health issue is nothing to be ashamed of, and being more open about your experience shows this fact to your loved ones. You may even learn that some of your family members and friends have had similar struggles, especially because many mental health conditions can run in families.
Show compassion and support for people with a mental health condition
Although you may not see any physical signs of distress, people with a mental health condition can be in a lot of pain. The way in which someone deals with their pain can manifest in many different ways: the use drugs and alcohol, physical harm to oneself, or even using humor to direct attention away from themselves. Be supportive of friends whom you know to have, or suspect of having, a mental health issue. Ask them how you can help, and be there for them when they need you. The simplest actions can have a big impact, such as texting or calling when they’re not doing well or when you haven’t heard from them in a while, or taking an hour a week to meet for coffee.
- Mental Health by the Numbers. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Publication date not available. Click Here. Accessed May 09, 2019.
- Mental disorders affect one in four people. The World Health Organization. Publication date not available. Click Here. Accessed May 09, 2019.
- 5 Warning Signs of Mental Health Risk. Psychology Today. Published May 05, 2015. Click Here. Accessed May 09, 2019.
- Words Can Change Your Brain. Psych Central. Updated July 08, 2018. Click Here. Accessed May 09, 2019.