Updated: Jul 17
What is Mental Health Awareness Month?
It is first observed by Mental Health America in 1949 in May and has been going strong since then. It is miraculous to see that they had started advocating about mental health a long time before the importance of mental health becomes a widespread global issue with more exposure like today. It is a month to spread awareness about the importance of mental health and reduce stigmas against people with mental health conditions.
Why is it Important to Talk about Mental Health
According to Our World in Data, around 800,000 people worldwide, or 1.4% of people die from suicide annually – just below HIV/AIDS, making it the 15th deadliest cause of death on our planet. Unfortunately, it’s been a silent killer for the male population, whose suicide rate is twice higher than for females. The stigmas of how males should act like being more stoic and solve their inner turmoils on their own become the contributing factor to their silence about their mental health issues and correlates highly to their high suicide rates.
On another spectrum, the United States' LGB members have five times higher suicide rates than their heterosexual peers. Unfortunately, the statistics make sense. The discrimination they receive in the world, bullying, and the crucifixions around the LGBTQ+ society by outdated beliefs are common factors to their declining mental health. Especially during the pandemic, some LGBTQ+ members can't escape living with people who do not accept their sexual orientation or abuse them. As a result, young LGBTQ+ adults who run out of their house or facing eviction are more common than you know. According to True Colors United, an organization focusing on solving homelessness within the LGBTQ+ youths, LGBTQ+ members are 120% more likely to experience homelessness. One of the driving factors is a family rejection of their sexual orientation.
These statistics are not just numbers. They are real humans, which is why we need to work together to ensure lawmakers realize that mental health accommodations are part of our fundamental rights. Countries should provide education to eliminate stigmas around the stereotyped, outdated gender roles and implement laws to protect the vulnerable population and minority groups. Moreover, they should introduce mental health education in schools. This way, children can learn about mental health early, know where to find mental health resources, and understand where they can ask for help when they are mentally struggling.
Think about it this way. Countries that invest in mental health sectors will increase people's welfare and at the same time gain productive workers for the nation. The University of Oxford found that workers are 13% more productive and making more sales when they are happy.
Debunking Stigmas around Mental Health
Contrary to popular belief, the solution of 'keeping it together' might not be as simple as we thought. In some countries, cultures demand blaming those who have a mental illness for their lack of faith, the weakness of their minds, or have it dismissed as a passing condition that can get better with time. Because of these stigmas, some people are hesitant to reach out for help. In reality, declining mental health is a common occurrence that most people experience in varying degrees. For instance, prolonged stress due to studies, having daily anxiety before going to work, canceling your plans with your friends because you suddenly feel too nervous, or having an unhealthy reflection of one's own body. These are some examples that can lead to mental health issues. If you do not intervene with these discomforts, they can affect your relationship and capacity to work.
Mental health issues do not merely stem from the inability to regulate emotions or lack of self-control. For instance, here are some causes that could cause mental health condition to develop, but not limited to:
Lacking neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, or norepinephrine
The list above shows us why simply telling people to 'toughen it up' or ‘stop being sad’ won't cut it. Sometimes people with mental health conditions need medical interference to alleviate their symptoms, while lifestyle changes, extensive therapies, and consultation with a mental health professional can help others. A faulty social connotation when one meets a mental health professional is because one is mentally ill, so people who do not have serious issues do not need to see them. Even when one feels fine, checking in with a mental health professional is a great idea to get coping resources when later you encounter a stressful situation. You can also get some tips to develop good practices to maintain your mental health or familiarize yourself with the system. That way, you know where to go if you ever need help.
Luckily, the world is not very bleak when it comes to mental health advancement. In some countries, medication, surgery, therapy, and hospitalization are available to help people become better. Additionally, many organizations have opened their doors to provide free support where mental health services aren't available due to the pandemic or economic condition.
Be an Ally
Although now the world knows more about mental health, some cultures still have stigmas around people with mental health. If you notice discrimination against people with their mental health condition, speak up! We need to keep educating ourselves and read about resources to help our friends to make it easier for people to get back up. Mental Health America provides resources for printable handouts and informational sections you could share on social media to spread awareness and what to do to cope with trauma, anger, and many more.