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What do you think of when you hear the phrase “mental health?” Chances are you immediately start to go down an imaginary list and tick off different things like anxiety or depression. Mental health is almost like a puzzle: there are a lot of pieces involved and sometimes putting the whole picture together can be a little bit frustrating. However, it is not impossible. It just requires a little bit of effort. Realistically, there are a lot of pieces missing in most people’s puzzle, which is why Mental Health Awareness Month is so important.
Mental Health Awareness Month, also known as Mental Health Month, happens every year in May. It was established in 1949 and continues to play an integral role in raising awareness and growing the understanding of mental illnesses, whether they are commonly known or barely heard of. Organizations such as Mental Health America work to reach people through social media, events and screenings in order to better educate them on the importance of mental health. Though mental health is a term usually addressed with people who have a diagnosed mental illness, it is important that everyone is more aware of their own mental well-being.
We take care of our bodies by exercising, eating healthy and making sure we get enough sleep, so why should taking care of our minds be any different?
It is with this mindset that Mental Health America came to create their campaign for Mental Health month of 2018, #4Mind4Body. This campaign is specifically designed to have people think more about their mental health in direct connection to their physical health, whether it be the amount of sleep we get each night or the food that we put into our bodies. They aim to post a daily challenge for every day of the month to get people involved in the campaign. The list includes things like taking a walk on your break at work or helping someone in need.
While it is important for everyone to acknowledge caring for their mental health, many people have to maneuver through life with a mental illness, which can cause some unwelcome changes in one’s own daily routine. 19-year-old Jillian Purdy has suffered from depression for roughly five years. She has been through many friendships due to a lack of communication and understanding when it came to what she has to manage. “I’ve had people stop associating with me because of the fact that I have depression,” says Purdy. She is constantly faced with people who don’t understand how to react to her situation and often finds them walking on eggshells around her.
People may have some negative connotations that pair with mental health as it has built up a stigma through the years. Where do people get these skewed perceptions of mental health?
A lot of it has to do with the media, which paints mental health as something dangerous, which creates a reason to fear those who struggle every day with issues regarding their mental health. Criminals in movies or television shows, for example, are more likely to be portrayed with a mental health issue, which goes against the reality of the situation. This makes the connection between a mental illness and danger, which in turn provides people with their false perceptions. Similarly, shows such as 13 Reasons Why make a connection between mental health and suicide. While this is sometimes valid, the sensitive topic of taking one’s own life may cause people to decide that the topic of mental health is only important for the prevention of suicide. Realistically, it’s important for every individual.
People dealing with a mental illness are able to use Mental Health Month as a vehicle for educating those around them about the truth regarding mental health. Many people who suffer through their situations just want to be understood by those they care about. “I wish people would understand that it’s something that can’t be instantly fixed,” says Purdy. “Some days it doesn’t affect you as badly, and other days it really hits you hard.”
Due to the large population affected by mental health issues, it is likely that everyone has at least one person in their life who struggles with their mental health. So what can you do to better understand? The people who understand this issue the most are the ones who deal with it every day. If you genuinely want to know more about mental health, asking these people allows you to step into someone else’s shoes for just a moment and get a better perspective. However, you always want to be sure that there is a sense of trust established between you and another person before you try and help, as mental health can be an extremely sensitive topic. You’ll also be showing them that you care about getting that perspective right, which is all anyone really wants: to be understood.
There are also many online sources you can turn to, such as the Mental Health America website. There, you can find information about different mental illnesses, find out how you can help someone in the middle of a mental health crisis, donate to the cause and much more. With our access to technology comes access to all the information you could ever ask for.
“I feel it is so important for people to know about Mental Health Month,” says Purdy. “For the longest time, it was such a taboo to speak about depression and other mental illnesses. In this day and age, more people are coming out and speaking about the issues they deal with, and I feel it’s good for people to know so they can actually try to understand what’s going on in someone’s head.”
During this month, it is important to focus on the needs of others as well as your own needs. Mental health should never be something you should be embarrassed to talk about. Having an open conversation about these topics is what this month is all about.
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