As we reach the end of Mental Health Awareness Month 2020, I was trying to figure out what else I could write about it. Seeing as how this is a mental health blog, it feels like every post I write is about mental health awareness – what could I say now that would make this any different? But, seeing as how this is a big month not only for the mental health community but for organizations around the country, I decided to share why this isn’t just a cause for those affected, it’s for everyone. We should all care about mental health awareness – and here’s why.
The Value of Awareness Months
Contrary to how it seems now, I wasn’t always the biggest fan of months of ‘Awareness.’ It wasn’t because I didn’t know about them – I was aware – but I had the mindset that if something really mattered, people would make themselves aware of whatever the cause was. I didn’t have many reasons for feeling this way, but my main one was that there are so many awareness months! Healthline has more than 220 days, weeks and months listed in its directory of awareness months. Even looking at the list seems a bit overwhelming – how can you expect people to care about it all? That was was cynical and, as it turns out, it was the wrong take entirely.
I thought that awareness months only existed to bring things to light that don’t always receive attention, but that was wrong. That might be one thing that goes on, but it’s also an opportunity for organizations and experts to use a larger platform to educate, inform and normalize a cause. Sometimes the months have a theme to focus on, strategies to try out or options for a lifestyle change. For instance, Mental Health Awareness Month 2020 included themes on ‘Tools 2 Thrive’ and ‘You Are Not Alone’ which are reminders that are always relevant, but even more necessary right now.
Why Mental Health Matters
Which leads me to why you should care about Mental Health Awareness Month, whether or not you struggle with your mental health. The numbers don’t lie. One in five adults experience mental illness every year. More than 16 percent of kids in the U.S. (defined as youth ages 6-17) experience a mental health disorder every year. And yes, that was all before a global pandemic. The odds are that someone you know is struggling with their mental health. Maybe you’re even struggling yourself.
But not everyone knows what to do or where to turn. So you research ‘mental health’ and read what pops up. You search ‘mental health awareness’ to learn about what mental health is and how you can help. And you realize that this fight is one of many fights that don’t just happen during a month. Mental health discourse doesn’t just pick up because it’s May. Talking about suicide prevention doesn’t just pick up in September during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. It’s happening all the damn time.
That doesn’t mean you need to drop everything and lean in to these causes every month. Honestly, that would be exhausting. But by acknowledging the information that’s being dropped and experiences that are being shared, you’re educating yourself on how to be a better human. You’re giving weight to the cause, and value to the people who are working toward the goal. If mental health isn’t a huge interest of yours, thanks for reading this post. Just by doing that, you’re acknowledging that we all have a role to play. The mental health community advocates for improving the approach to mental health, and it starts with us.