This was originally published on Liberal America on April 30, 2016.
You may not know this, but May is a special month. It is Mental Health Awareness Month. We need this whole month to raise awareness of these diseases. It is 2016, and we are still dealing with stigma. These diseases are not character flaws, they are real diseases that need treatment.
These illnesses often strike during adolescence, but they can happen at any age. Even now, people still say things like “lighten up” or “change your attitude.” It is offensive and wrong if you say this to someone that is suffering; in fact, you could make them worse. If they are depressed, they are already feeling bad about themselves. Do NOT add to their pain!
According to a 2014 study by the National Institute of Mental Health, over 43 million Americans suffer from some form of mental illness. One in five! You likely know someone that is struggling. This subject has been quiet for too long; we need to talk about it, so people can get the medical treatment they need.
Mental Health America and other organizations have been celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month for 65 years. The website has toolkit and information you can download to help spread awareness in your community.
No one should have to suffer alone. Mental illnesses are painful and can be debilitating. Fighting with your own mind is a terrible thing.
There is also another important point here: Ending the stigma of mental illness is an important part of mental health awareness. But, many people don’t understand that mental health is not just mental illness.
President Obama issued a Presidential Proclamation for this important month. Read the full statement here.
“Nearly 44 million American adults, and millions of children, experience mental health conditions each year, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress. Although we have made progress expanding mental health coverage and elevating the conversation about mental health, too many people still do not get the help they need. Our Nation is founded on the belief that we must look out for one another — and whether it affects our family members, friends, co-workers, or those unknown to us — we do a service for each other when we reach out and help those struggling with mental health issues. This month, we renew our commitment to ridding our society of the stigma associated with mental illness, encourage those living with mental health conditions to get the help they need, and reaffirm our pledge to ensure those who need help have access to the support, acceptance, and resources they deserve.”