May Is Mental Health Awareness Month
Mental Health Awareness Month has been celebrated in some form in the United States since 1949. The organization Mental Health America (MHA) founded the day to raise awareness about mental health issues and mental health care.
This year’s theme is ”Life with a Mental Illness.” The aim is to highlight how people dealing with these conditions can still lead full and enriching lives with proper care. A central focus is preventing sufferers from reaching what has been called “Stage 4.”
The campaign #beforestage4, also started by Mental Health America, emphasizes how, unlike with other health conditions, we rarely intervene with mental health until it becomes serious.
Too often the person becomes at risk of complete mental health collapse or suicidal thoughts and actions. In cases of physical health problems, however, we wouldn’t wait until cancer has spread throughout the body to fight it.
Instead, we should treat mental health when the first symptoms, such as prolonged feelings of stress or depression in mood, begin to manifest.
Here’s a video to explain that idea in more detail:
“Mental illnesses are common and treatable, and help is available. We need to speak up early—before Stage 4—and in real, relatable terms so that people do not feel isolated and alone,” Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO of Mental Health America, explained.
Gionfriddo goes on to say that a key strategy for tackling the silence around early mental health symptoms is by sharing what living with a mental illness, at all stages, is like: “Sharing is the key to breaking down the stigma surrounding mental illnesses and to showing others that they are not alone in their feelings and their symptoms.”
Starting Mental Health Awareness Month by Improving Our Understanding
Mental health covers a broad spectrum of health issues, as well as social policy issues. However, stigma about certain conditions and misconceptions regarding mental health treatment remain.
To kick off Mental Health Awareness Month, here are five videos about various mental health issues that aim to broaden our understanding, whether we are new to this topic or — as someone living with mental health issues myself – simply want to expand our knowledge.
1. Living with OCD
A lot of people say they are “so OCD” about something, be it checking their bills, tidying up or cleaning.
In reality, this is many miles away from what OCD really is, an obsessive and compulsive need to do something. OCD can take many forms and overlap with anxiety issues. It is incredibly hurtful because often sufferers are aware that their compulsions and obsessions have a detrimental effect on their lives, but they find that they cannot stop without help.
Fortunately, OCD is highly treatable for most people, be that with medication, therapy or a combination of both.
Below is a short video that shows what the condition is like for one man with OCD. Obviously, everyone’s experience may be slightly different, but this offers a rare insight into the condition. Please be aware if you do have anxiety or other conditions that can be triggered, this video may be problematic:
Many of us may have been exposed to the term “psychosis” through TV programs. Unfortunately, crime shows and horror films often use tropes surrounding psychosis and exaggerated versions of mental illness that don’t show the reality.
Psychosis occurs when emotions and thoughts become so distorted that we lose touch with reality. It is a serious mental illness — often Stage 4 — but, again, it is treatable.
Below you can learn more about psychosis and how it is addressed:
Agoraphobia, or an inability to face the outside world due to extreme panic and anxiety, is a severe condition that can steal years from people. It is highly treatable, though, and if caught early enough, agoraphobia can be managed before becoming severely debilitating.
Here is a story involving a woman named Stephanie and her family. The video shows how agoraphobia can impact sufferers, as well as their close family and friends:
4. What Is It Like to Receive Therapy for Mental Illness?
Another area with many misconceptions is mental health therapy. It certainly can be daunting, but therapy can significantly improve a patient’s life.
Below you can learn what it’s like to engage in therapy:
5. Taking Medication for Mental Health
There is significant stigma surrounding mental health medication and a common notion that people just need to try harder. That is not something we would say about giving people medication to regulate other natural processes, yet it has become an acceptable narrative around mental heath.
While it is true that medication does not work for everyone, medication helps many people live a better life. The following video offers insight on how medication has helped some individuals:
What is your experience with mental health care and mental health issues? Please feel free to share your story in the comments below.
Photo Credit: Steven Depolo/Flickr