May Is Mental Health Awareness Month

By Britni de la Cretaz 05/03/17

Mental Health Awareness Month initiatives and campaigns are being rolled out by the White House, nonprofit orgs and Tumblr.

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Many companies and organizations have announced initiatives to cap off Mental Health Awareness Month.

During the month, there are a variety of initiatives and campaigns that seek to raise awareness about the stigma of mental health, and bring awareness to the ways in which people who struggle with mental health issues can be supported.

“National Mental Health Awareness Month is a time to recognize the millions of American families affected by mental illness and to redouble our efforts to ensure that those who are suffering get the care and treatment they need,” reads a statement from the White House.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), nearly 1 in 5 adults in the United States experiences mental illness in a single year, including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. NAMI also reports that among the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who have experienced substance use disorder, more than half—50.5%—also had a co-occurring mental illness. The statement from the White House acknowledged that addressing substance abuse and addiction is critical to improving mental health outcomes. 

Mental Health Month was started 68 years ago by Mental Health America (MHA). This year, the theme is Risky Business, “a call to educate ourselves and others about habits and behaviors that increase the risk of developing or exacerbating mental illnesses, or could be signs of mental health problems themselves,” according to a statement from MHA. These behaviors include compulsive sex, drug use, obsessive internet use, excessive spending, or disordered exercise patterns. These behaviors can either lead to mental health issues if untreated, or can be signs of mental illnesses like substance use disorder, bipolar disorder, or an eating disorder. 

“When we engage in prevention and early identification, we can help reduce the burden of mental illness by identifying symptoms and warning signs early—and provide effective treatment Before Stage 4,” Paul Gionfriddo, MHA president and CEO, said in a statement. “We need to speak up early and educate people about risky behavior and its connection to mental illness—and do so in a compassionate, judgement-free way.” MHA is encouraging people to use the hashtag #RiskyBusiness to share their experiences.

May is Mental Health Month. This year, MHA's theme is #riskybusiness. Did you know #riskybehaviors are linked to #mentalillnes?

— MHAofNortheastIN (@MHANortheastIN) May 3, 2017

Tumblr has also announced several initiatives for the month of May on its mental health platform Post It Forward. The social blogging network launched Post It Forward two years ago to create what it saw as a much-needed “safe haven” for people to discuss issues like bullying, self-harm and mental illness—but also as an extension of what many Tumblr users were already doing on the platform. They call it a campaign to “counter the stigmas around mental and emotional health through community-building and conversation.”

In Tumblr's announcement about Mental Health Awareness Month, it wrote, “This entire month we want to nudge all of you to celebrate triumphs, acknowledge struggles, and just come together. Let other people know they’re not alone. Feel less alone yourself.”

One of the initiatives is a partnership with NAMI, which includes Tumblr’s pledge to become one of NAMI’s StigmaFree Companies, aimed at cultivating a company environment that prioritizes employees' mental health and well-being. Tumblr is also hosting a series called “Answer Times,” where a variety of public figures will share their personal stories, including A.J. Mendez Brooks, former female professional wrestler and author of the new memoir Crazy Is My Superpower; Lady Gaga’s mother and co-founder of the Born This Way Foundation, Cynthia Germanotta; and former Congressman Patrick Kennedy and his wife Amy Kennedy.

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.