May is Mental Health Awareness month. This month isn’t about how to fix your emotional state, it isn’t about self-care and how to manage it, it is about educating ourselves and those closest to us about the impact of mental health and mental health disorders. It is about acknowledgment that you are not alone. It is about spreading awareness of the fact that sometimes the strongest people in your life are the ones that need the most support. We have all lived through some serious ups and downs in the last 28 months. The constant unknown and inability to plan or manage expectations of what is “normal” in this pandemic has exacerbated feelings of isolation, fear, stress, worry, and loneliness in just about everyone, including the millions of Americans who are living with mental illness.
The numbers of new cases of mental illness have risen significantly since March 2020, with dramatic increases in children and young adults. According to Mental Health America 19.86% of adults are experiencing a mental illness. This number is equivalent to nearly 50 million Americans, with 4.91% experiencing a severe mental illness. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Any Mental Illness (AMI) is defined as “having a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder, other than a developmental or substance use disorder. Any mental illness includes persons who have mild mental illness, moderate mental illness, and serious mental illness.". SAMHSA is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. The percentage of adults reporting serious thoughts of suicide is 4.58%. The estimated number of adults with serious suicidal thoughts is over 11.4 million - an increase of 664,000 people from last year's data set. The national rate of adults experiencing suicidal ideation has increased every year since 2011-2012.
Although there is often not a specific moment that an individual can pinpoint what causes a change in their mental state, so much of this increase has been fueled by isolation and loneliness. This increase simply shows that these are serious times. With more individuals suffering from mental illness (and the stigma) and thanks to Covid we still have limited access to outlets of stress relief, such as vacationing, going to the gym regularly, connecting in person with your family, friends, co-workers, or other social events. Although mental well-being is a huge priority especially in dealing with life, it is important to note that mental illness and poor mental health include factors that aren’t the same. Someone can experience poor mental health and not be diagnosed with a mental illness, and a person diagnosed with a mental illness can experience periods of physical, mental, and social well-being.
The world was judgmental enough prior to Covid. The stigma that society has placed on mental illness continues to persist at an even higher rate; even though more individuals are dealing with this. This stigma makes it almost impossible for some individuals to feel comfortable mentioning it to anyone, never mind reaching out for support or receiving professional care. Some who suspect they might be depressed or have anxiety don't even want to tell their family, nevermind reaching out to a physician or professional, due to the judgement that is often attached. But by increasing awareness in our community, we can change that. We can each do our part to make sure no one feels they are alone.
The world we live in is not one of status quo conditions and unfortunately it may not be again for a long time. But because we are living in a constant pattern of unknown stressors it is perfectly natural for anyone to experience emotional distress from these surroundings. People who have never paid any attention to their mental health or possible mental health issues or of those around them are now being impacted in a very big way. Which is why this May we are encouraging you to check on not only those around you but yourself and your mental state.
Just as it is with many things you may not realize you do; it is especially easy to unconsciously perpetuate the myths and misconceptions associated with mental illness. Continuing this cycle is harmful to people around you that may need you most. So as May ends, and you take time to reflect on the light that has been shown on mental health this month, we are asking you to be part of the solution. Be a safe space, remember that mental health is more than massages, eating your feelings or self-care. Reach out to the individuals that may seem strong, open your ears, and listen, provide support to a friend or family member that may act like nothing can bother them.
We are asking you to be STIGMA FREE along with us at SkinCatering. Together, we can change the way that mental health is perceived. Through education and understanding we can change the way this disease is understood and supported. We could be the reason someone asks for help, it may not always be this drastic, but together we can quite literally save lives.
To find out more about the detrimental results of this problem and what you can do to help be stigma free, please check out the Stigma Free resource page and pledge on the National Alliance of Mental Illness website.