Closing Out Mental Health Awareness Month 2023

As we reach the end of Mental Health Awareness Month, I’d like to reflect a little bit. I often reflect on the state of mental health; I try to figure out how we, as a society, view mental health and wellness. In the year since the last Mental Health Awareness Month, have we improved things? What does it mean to spread awareness, and are we doing a good enough job? There are many conclusions this month has led me to, but what I want to focus on today are next steps. How do we go beyond mental health awareness? How can we build a better world, focused on wellness and healing?

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MBNB Song of the Month – You’re Not Alone

Last month, I started my Song of the Month series of posts. Each month on the blog, I’m going to share a song with you. It might be a song I can’t stop listening to at the moment, or a song I have a history with. It could be a song I don’t know much about, or I’ve listened to a thousand times. Regardless of the reason, these songs have inspired me and my mental health, and I want to share them with you. Whether you’ve heard of them or not, I hope these songs give you more insight into my world and my approach to mental health. This month: “You’re Not Alone” by The Mowgli’s.

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Finding the Right Words

How would you describe yourself? What words would you use? Would you describe yourself using full sentences, or create a list of adjectives? When I think about the way I describe myself, my brain freezes. It’s not that I’m afraid of using the wrong words, of talking about myself in a way that’s disingenuous. Actually, it’s the opposite; I’m worried I won’t include words that would clearly state who I am. I get scared that there’s a part of me that will never be known, things that will never be shared.

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The Vulnerability of Sharing Your Story

Oftentimes during Mental Health Awareness Month, people share their stories about mental health. They open up about their struggles, the challenges that mental illness can present. These stories can vary in experience, but there is a common purpose: to raise awareness. By sharing our stories, we are creating spaces that help other people share theirs. But sharing our stories is much easier said than done, and that’s what I want to talk about today.

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Five Ways You Can Raise Mental Health Awareness Right Now

How can we raise mental health awareness? The answer isn’t as easy as it seems. Many people agree that it’s important to raise mental health awareness, but they don’t always know how or when is the best time. In my opinion, there’s no bad time to raise mental health awareness. It’s always a good time to talk about mental health, and you never know who it can benefit. In fact, I came up with five ways that you can raise mental health awareness right now! I hope one of these ways will help and inspire you to raise awareness, in your own way, this month.

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What Does It Mean to Shrink the Stigma?

During Mental Health Awareness Month, there’s a lot of talk about shrinking the stigma. While it might look different than it used to, the stigma surrounding mental health is alive and well. While many would agree on how important it is to shrink the stigma, it’s easier said than done. Shrinking the stigma isn’t only in our words; it’s in our actions. So, what does it actually look like to shrink the stigma, and how can we contribute?

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By the Numbers: The State of Mental Health in the US in 2023

Every year during Mental Health Awareness Month, I find statistics and data that help show the state of mental health in the United States. Mental illness and mental health challenges are extremely prevalent in today’s world, and diving into the data is one of the clearest ways to show that. The more we can rely on the numbers, the sooner we can stop relying on assumptions and anecdotal evidence to talk about mental health. Here’s the most recent data I could find about mental health in 2023.

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Mental Health Awareness Month 2023

May is a special one on My Brain’s Not Broken – it’s Mental Health Awareness Month! Since 1949, May has been Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. This is a month dedicated to sharing stories and resources to raise mental health awareness. Various mental health organizations have themes and focuses for Mental Health Awareness Month. To start this month off, I wanted to highlight a few campaigns to keep an eye on. Regardless of how you do it, I hope this is a great month for raising awareness and hope for many!

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Guest Post: A World Dipped in Suicide

TW: This post discusses suicide and suicide-related topics

“Suicide doesn’t end the chances of life getting worse, it eliminates the possibility of it ever getting better” (unknown)

An unfortunate circumstance, suicide is a terrible, global anomaly from which 700,000-800,000 people die each year worldwide. Additionally, for every person who has died from suicide, twenty more people have attempted it. Globally, 77% of suicides occur in low to middle-income countries, with one tragedy ending in death every 40 seconds. In 2019, suicide was the 17th leading cause of death in the world, accounting for 1.3% of all deaths worldwide.. Now that is a frightening fact, and hopefully eye-opening to how serious it is.

Over the years, I have experienced my own struggles with suicide and have attempted it several times. All were scary, tragic, and disappointing. Scary that I almost died, tragic that I felt so desperate that I had no other option, and disappointed in myself that I gave up and gave in. But the most painful and heartbreaking was the death of my brother, who died by suicide in the fall of 2014.

As if it was yesterday, I remember every moment surrounding his demise—the breath that I took, the tears that I cried. I held onto every word my mother spoke over the phone; as she whispered that “he is gone,” my knees gave forth, and I crashed to the ground. Watching my life collapse around me, a trickling card house so easily demolished. I swore to my mother that “she was lying” because it couldn’t be true. I didn’t want to accept the pain or the death.

He just called me a few hours ago, and I missed the call. Every day of my life, I wonder what he would have said. The last words to leave his lips. Was there something I could have spoken to change his mind? Rewind time and make it go away. Suicide not only affects its victims but affects millions of people each year. All are wondering the very same thing I have wondered for countless hours on end. Could they have made a difference?

The same dream replays in my mind repeatedly. I don’t know if I’m awake or asleep anymore. Kyle, my brother, and I are running through our neighbor’s cow field. Sunset passes over the trees, and beautiful yellow beams of light pass through the leaves. Everything passes in slow motion, and I watch myself running; I turn around and yell to my brother, “hurry up, come on, Kyle” as I reach out to touch the soft grass blades, letting them scratch the surface of my hand. Kyle appears from around a tall oak tree, yelling after me to “wait up” I smile and laugh, and we run off together into the field beyond the sunset. Then I wake up, and he is gone. Everyone grieves in different ways, be in the moment and remember the beautiful life.

Suicide affects the victim’s life and everyone who loves that person. It is a negative trickling effect on family, friends, and the community. Many of them are left asking themselves, “Why.” You may start with a feeling first of initial SHOCK, with total numbness, and inability to function. Often followed by DENIAL of the facts of the demise or the overall death. This can be both alarming and difficult because we often don’t know the facts and are left with too many unanswered questions.

Many times, this is followed by GUILT. I know I felt a pang of extreme guilt after my younger brother’s suicide. You are feeling the need to protect them and that I failed at that. Desperately I wished I had heard the phone ring. I don’t think anyone could ever imagine what contemplating suicide or suffering through suicide feels like. Just imagining is painful enough.

We of course feel SADNESS, the dark wings that are spread over you that you fight to get out from under. Or maybe you don’t, maybe the sadness is too much, and you give in. Don’t fight these feelings, because fighting them only prolongs the process. Facing it hurts, but trust me, hiding from it hurts more in the long run. It is human nature to blame oneself when dealing with a tragedy, rather than accept that some things are out of our control.

Sometimes we feel ANGER, mad that it happened, frustrated that they seemed to let it happen, and overall rage that we couldn’t stop it or grasp an understanding of how it even came to this. How this person felt there was no way out. That saddened me for my brother, and others like him, because they felt trapped within their own minds. Unable to escape a pain so deep that they could not bare another breath or one more beat of their heart.

Lastly, usually, and in your own time, you will feel acceptance. Accepting that they’re gone, admission of your feelings, and acknowledging that some things are out of your hands. You cannot control anyone or anything, but yourself and your own actions. You can choose how to respond, you can choose to get help, you can choose to work through your feelings and find hope. I can’t give you a secure timeline of how long you will walk this road, I can’t even promise the pain will go away.

It’s been eight years since my brother took his own life and two years since I tried to take my own. The pain is still there, I shed tears for my loss and sadness and feel disappointment and anger life has taken me down this path. But I keep going, I keep working, whatever I can do, and try to make the pain lessen with each passing day. I grow stronger, and brighter and gain a better understanding of why what happened did.

Helping others always helped me, seeing something in someone I once saw in myself and knowing ways to help them is an enormous spiritual uplifter. Find what it is that helps you, spread the word to end mental stigma, speak out and speak up. Don’t fight this battle alone when there are so many like you that can help lighten the load. There are people all over the world that could learn something from your struggles. Maybe it will ease their pain for them. Seek out the light, among the darkness. You are not alone.

*Please be advised that I’m not a doctor, but a survivor. You should always seek help from a licensed practitioner. Below are great sources for help and information.

The author, Ashley Cote, is a single mom, born and raised in New England, in a small town in Vermont. After attending college for nursing, she found that writing was her true love and passion. She has two beautiful daughters who inspire her creativity in writing every day.

The Impact of Anxiety on Our Physical Health

Living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder has taught me so many things about myself. I’ve learned what some of my tendencies are, as well as what habits I fall into when it comes to coping mechanisms. I’ve learned about my triggers, what overstimulates me and what makes me anxious. But over the past few years, I’ve started focusing on other things connected to my anxiety. My GAD has always impacted my physical health, but it wasn’t something I often reflected on. Like other mental health disorders, anxiety can affect our physical health. Here’s how it impacts mine!

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