Understanding mental health and why it matters
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This is a good opportunity to learn more about what mental health is and how it affects your well-being. Mental health impacts all areas of your life, so it’s important to take a closer look at your own mental health, too. Here is some helpful information to consider this month as well as ways you can get involved in Mental Health Awareness Month.
What is Mental Health Awareness Month?
Established in 1949, Mental Health Awareness Month raises awareness around the importance of mental health. It’s a great time to gain understanding on how mental health affects your overall wellness, to learn about the preventative measures and treatment options available, and to fight the stigma surrounding mental illness.
What is Mental Health?
Mental health consists of our psychological, social, and emotional well-being. It affects how we feel, think, and act.[i] When you have good mental health, you’re better able to cope with the stresses and demands of everyday life, build healthy relationships, and have healthy behaviors.[ii] Your mental health can change over time depending on what you’re experiencing.[iii]
What are Mental Illnesses?
Mental illnesses are health conditions that involve changes in thinking, emotions, and/or behavior. These conditions can also involve difficulties functioning in work, social, or family settings. Approximately one in five adults in the U.S. experience a mental illness in a given year.[iv] Mental illnesses are treatable medical conditions and are nothing to be ashamed of.
Why Mental Health Matters
Mental health affects all areas of your life. It impacts how you handle stress, make choices, and relate to other people. Mental health also affects your physical health. Depression, for example, increases your risk of developing physical health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.[v] Mental health issues can also cause you to have low energy, eat too much or too little, or sleep too much or too little.[vi]
How to Get Involved
There are a variety of steps you can take to participate in Mental Health Awareness Month. Here are a few ideas.
Take a Mental Health Screening
Mental health screenings can help you determine if you’re experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition. While a mental health provider can do a more thorough assessment, screenings can be a helpful first step. Mental Health America offers tests for multiple mental health conditions.
Learn the Signs of Mental Health Conditions
When you know the warning signs of mental health issues, you can take action sooner to improve your mental health and overall well-being. Signs may include a change in your sleeping or eating habits, feeling hopeless, increased smoking or drinking, struggling to perform daily tasks, and more. You can find a longer list of warning signs here.
Self-care means spending time on activities that encourage good mental and physical health. Activities may include exercising, getting enough sleep, relaxing, keeping a positive mindset, and more. You can find more self-care ideas here.
Learn More About Mental Health
The more you know about mental health, the better you can support good mental health in yourself and others. To learn more about mental health, anxiety, and depression, visit our resources page.