For Mental Health Awareness Month we’re joining the national movement to raise awareness about the vital role mental health plays in our overall health and well-being. Mental health is something we should all care about, whether we show our support by fighting stigma, providing resources, educating the public or advocating for policies that will positively impact people with mental illness and their families.

Nearly 1 in 5 American adults will have a diagnosable mental health condition in any given year.

There continues to be a stigma surrounding mental health, although mental health issues are far from rare. Those who struggle with mental health problems need support, because mental health care is health care.

We play a part in one another’s mental wellness

The long-standing stigma surrounding mental health stems from old misunderstandings, ignorance, arrogance and the idea that, even as recently as the 20th century, mentally-ill patients should be degraded and shunned from society. Eradicating the stigma of mental health is more important than ever, since stigma of mental illness can lead people to hide their troubles and refuse to seek the help they deserve — which is likely to worsen their condition and begin a vicious cycle.

We can all play an essential role in one another’s mental wellness. Take care of your friends and your loved ones by checking in on them and having open conversations about mental health. Though it can feel like a difficult topic to bring up, starting that conversation can truly make a difference for your loved ones. You can even encourage them to find out if they are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition.

While understanding the role you play in others’ mental wellness, don’t forget the role you play in your own health. Taking time to check in with yourself, acknowledge how you’re really feeling, and performing calming self-care rituals are essential in being emotionally and mentally well.

Our surroundings impact our mental health

Since mental health is impacted by our surroundings, it makes sense that in every area of life, those struggling with mental health issues should find support and guidance. Adults spend such a large portion of time at work, so it seems obvious that business owners and leaders should absolutely make mental health a priority for employees. The question is not if – but how – leaders can provide mental health support and resources in the workplace.

In fact, this year Mental Health America’s campaign focuses on how our surroundings impact our mental health. Where a person is born, lives, learns, works, plays, and gathers, as well as their economic stability and social connections, are part of what is called “social determinants of health” (SDOH). The more these factors work in your favor means you are more likely to have better mental well-being. However, when it seems like the world is working against you, your mental health can suffer.

While many parts of your environment can be out of your control, there are steps you can take to change your space and protect your well-being.

  • Work toward securing safe and stable housing: This can be challenging due to finances, age, and other reasons, but there are a few things you can try, such as reaching out to state/local agencies to secure housing, removing safety hazards in the home, or finding another space (such as a community center or friend’s home) where you can get the comfort you are missing at home.
  • Focus on your home: Consider keeping your space tidy, sleep-friendly, and well-ventilated. Surround yourself with items that help you feel calm and positive.
  • Create bonds with your neighborhood and community: Get to know the people living around you, join or start neighbors helping-neighbors groups, and support local businesses to challenge gentrification.
  • Connect with nature: Hike in a forest, sit in a city park, bring a plant inside, or keep the shades open to absorb natural light.

If you’re taking steps to improve your surroundings but are still struggling with your mental health, you may be experiencing signs of a mental health condition. Take a free, private screening at www.mhascreening.org to help you figure out what is going on and determine next steps.

As behavioral health professionals, Mental Health Awareness Month provides a great opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of mental health and its role in our well-being, which is key to breaking the stigma of mental health.

Breaking the Stigma of Mental Health