Each year Mental Health America, and its affiliates, dedicate the month of May to educate the community about the impact of mental illness on Americans. Since 1949, this event has created a place of understanding and support as well as provided resources for millions of individuals suffering from mental health issues.
Mental illness impacts men, women, and children equally across all races and social classes. Through early screening, education, evidence-based treatment, and intervention, positive outcomes are possible for the affected individuals and families.
This year Mental Health America is expanding on the theme from 2018, #4Mind#Body, and is now including animal companionship. This theme focuses on physical and mental health, exploring the importance of spirituality, humor, work-life balance, pets for emotional support and as companions, and recreation and social connections for overall well-being.
Individuals suffering from dual diagnoses or chronic health issues, such as diabetes, obesity, or heart conditions may be particularly susceptible to mental illness and can benefit significantly from a healthy lifestyle.
There are small changes everyone can incorporate into their daily lives that will have a positive impact. These changes include meditation, regular sleep habits, going for a nature walk, sharing a meal with a friend, caring for an animal, finding something funny to share, or engaging in creative activities such as writing poetry.
The goal of Mental Health Awareness Month is to inform the community that a healthy lifestyle can prevent mental illness from progressing and can have positive impacts on the intensity, duration, and frequency of episodic symptoms. May is the time to choose individual goals toward healthy living and connecting with others. The following is a list of ideas for your community:
- Run/walk a 5K in honor of Mental Health Awareness month
- Create a sports team with your coworkers to improve comradery
- Visit your state capital and discuss mental health issues and trends in the community
- Conduct mental health screenings for community members
- Plan a pet-friendly outing at a local park
For more information on how to participate in Mental Health Awareness month, please visit http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may.
By NASW Senior Practice Associate Susan Ross, LCSW (firstname.lastname@example.org)