May is Mental Health Month
By Member Joyce Shry
May 4, 2019

Mental Health Month has been observed in May in the U.S. since 1949 reaching millions of people through media, local events and screenings. Each year millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental illness. This month is set aside for raising awareness of mental health, to fight the stigma associated with mental health, provide support, educate the public and advocate for policies that support people with mental issues and their families.

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behavior is affected. Many factors contribute to mental health problems including biological factors, life experiences or family history of mental health problems.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five adults experiences a mental health condition every year. One in 17 lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. In addition to a person directly experiencing a mental illness, family, friends and communities are also affected.

Half of mental health conditions begin by age 14, and 75% of mental health conditions develop by age 24. The normal personality and behavior changes of adolescence may mimic or mask symptoms of a mental health condition. Early engagement and support are crucial to improving outcomes and increasing the promise of recovery.

This awareness is an opportunity to share the importance of care in our relationships to others, in mental health treatment and services and in support and education to millions of people, families, caregivers and loved ones affected by mental illness. Demonstrating how and why we care brings more to awareness by showing our actions and connections to others.

Care has the power to make a life-changing impact on those affected by mental health conditions. Through our own words and actions, we can shift the social and systemic barriers that prevent people from building better lives. Care is a simple but powerful way to change lives. It is an action, a feeling and it is a gift we give ourselves and to each other. People feel loved when someone cares. People feel heard when someone cares. People recover when someone cares. By sharing stories and thoughts, we show how people care and it is a challenge to address broken systems and attitudes that present barriers to treatment and recovery.

Stopping stigma means reducing shame, and when even one person is open about their experience, others may realize they are not alone and that there is no shame in seeking help. If it seems like someone you care about is not in a healthy place, reach out your hand and let them know they are not alone. It only takes one person to make a difference in the life of another.

Mental health problems are common and help is available. People with mental health problems can get better and many recover completely. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and serves as a great reminder that we all have a responsibility to End the Stigma.

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