May is Mental Health Awareness Month
May is recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of mental health and reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness. Mental health is a vital part of overall health and wellbeing, yet it often goes overlooked and untreated. This month provides an opportunity to educate individuals about mental health, advocate for policies that support mental health, and encourage people to seek help when needed.
Mental illness affects millions of people around the world, and the impact can be severe. It can affect one’s ability to function in everyday life, maintain relationships, and contribute to society. It can also lead to physical health problems and even death. Unfortunately, many individuals who suffer from mental illness do not receive the support they need due to the stigma and discrimination that surrounds it.
In the United States:
Springtime is peak for depression
While seasonal depression is usually associated with the winter, some people find their symptoms peak in spring. This year, the arrival of sunnier days may pose more challenges than normal.
The exact cause of spring depression is unknown, but researchers have identified some possible contributing factors. These include:
• Heat and humidity.
• Longer days.
• Change in sleep patterns due to more sunlight, heat, and other spring and summer discomforts.
• Seeing others having fun (such as in vacation photos) and feeling left out or feeling pressure to feel better.
• Avoidance of summer activities due to health or appearance concerns.
• Seasonal allergies (associated with increased symptoms of depression and mood disorders, possibly due to inflammation).
Although there have been advancements in the quality and effectiveness of mental health treatment, therapy, and support, societal stigma towards mental illness remains pervasive.
Challenging established beliefs is difficult, especially when they have been deeply ingrained over time. Prior to the scientific understanding of mental illness, it was commonly perceived as a curse and those afflicted were often viewed as delusional or possessed, requiring religious intervention. While some developing countries still hold these views, the United States has a particularly bleak history of stigmatization. Even in the 20th century, mentally ill individuals were treated poorly, being relegated to mental asylums and excluded from mainstream society. This ongoing stigma can prevent people from seeking help due to fear of discrimination or judgment from others. Addressing stigma, increasing awareness, reducing barriers, and providing adequate funding and resources are essential steps towards ensuring that everyone has access to the care they need.
Mental Health Awareness Month is an opportunity to break down these barriers and create a culture of understanding and support for those living with mental illness. It is also a time to highlight the importance of seeking help when needed and the importance of self-care. Taking care of one’s mental health is just as important as taking care of one’s physical health, and seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Activities and Ideas to Honor Mental Health Awareness Month:
1. Listen to Mental Health Podcasts
Podcasts aren’t the same as therapy or counseling, but they sure can help us feel seen and understood in new ways, especially when they’re made by professionals or folks with lived experiences.
2. Read Books on Mental Health
Your local library or independent bookstore(s) should have a wide array of resources for your mental health studies.
Yolo County Library has highlighted a few Mental Health related books available for check out here.
Use your time and talents to support a mental health organization! Whether it’s advocating for suicide prevention, volunteering with a hotline or respite center in your area, or offering support, like a meal or help with care tasks to someone going through a difficult time, your big heart is needed.
4. Share Mental Health Resources*
Making mental health resources widely accessible makes it that much easier for even one person to get the help they need.
*That being said, if you choose to engage with mental health stories and resources, keep in mind that these topics can be heavy and triggering for others. Consider adding content warnings to your posts.
5. Share your personal experiences
By talking openly about your own personal mental health related issues, this can provide inspiration to those who are currently struggling, and build a sense of community among those who have similar experiences. This can also help others better understand what it’s like to live with mental health issues and reduce feelings of shame or isolation.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, you can call or text CHAT to 988 to reach trained crisis counselors.