Each year the month of May is set aside as Mental Health Awareness Month. Our most mission-sensitive message about general health and overall wellness is that oral health is essential to both. But let’s consider mental health. Is there any part of our lives that is unaffected by our mental health?
With origins dating back to 1949, the Mental Health Foundation says that the purpose of Mental Health Awareness Month is to bring attention to mental illness and those issues and stigmas that surround it. Each year, communities organize events and activities to get people talking and thinking about mental health. It’s also a time when those suffering from mental illness perhaps feel less alone in their daily struggles and more supported by those who are not afflicted.
From the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), these statistics are sobering:
- One in five U.S. adults experience a mental health condition each year.
- Mental illness affects more than 50 million people in the U.S.
- Seventeen percent of youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health condition.
- The suicide rate has increased 35% since 1999.
If you want to become more involved in your state, contact NAMI Maine, NAMI New Hampshire, or NAMI Vermont.
If you’re looking for a starting place to become more involved, The National Campaign to Change Direction suggests that we can do so by learning the five signs that may mean someone is in emotional pain and might need help:
- Personality changes.
- Uncharacteristically angry, anxious, agitated, or moody.
- Withdrawal or isolation from other people.
- May neglect self-care and engage in risky behavior.
- Overcome with hopelessness and overwhelmed by circumstances.
My good friend, John Broderick, former chief justice, senior director of public affairs at Dartmouth Health, and co-chair of the Campaign to Change Direction NH, said, “Learning the signs of emotional suffering can better open the doors to treatment and getting people the help they deserve.”
The Campaign also suggests that we reach out to someone we feel may be suffering emotionally, showing compassion, caring, and a willingness to help. Sometimes it may be necessary to involve other resources—people and programs.
To empower ourselves and others, follow this link to take a pledge that you have learned these five signs and join with other groups and individuals who have made the commitment to make mental health a priority. https://giveanhour.org/changedirection/pledge/. And also learn more about mental illness at https://www.nami.org and https://mentalhealthfoundation.org.