May is mental health awareness month.

Why do we need a month for mental health awareness, you many ask.

Mental illness is common.

Current estimates indicate that about one in four people suffer from a mental illness at some point.

Mental health awareness month helps by encouraging people to educate themselves, so that they can recognize the signs of mental illness and get help quickly.

Mental illness is serious.

Mental illness interferes with the ability to live, work, attend school, and live a normal life for far too many people. People with mental illnesses may be incarcerated at higher rates than the general population. People with unstable mental illness have worse physical health than usual. And mental illnesses can lead to early death from many causes, including suicide.

Mental health awareness month encourages people to get help early, so that their long-term outcomes are better.

People who suffer from mental illnesses may not get treatment.

Many people have trouble accessing medical services for mental health, either because it is difficult to find a provider, or because they cannot afford care. Unlike other medical treatments, sometimes payments for mental health are restricted. Even when people can afford care, some wait months because there aren’t’ enough available appointments to provide the care they need.

Mental health awareness helps increase our communities’ understanding about the importance of resources for the treatment of mental illness. Awareness increases funding, and encourages creative approaches to meet care needs.

Mental illness is still surrounded by stigma.

Many people believe that having a mental illness makes them weak, or that others won’t understand. They suffer in secret because they feel unable to tell the honest truth.

Mental health awareness helps by getting people talking to one another. Hearing about someone else’s struggle makes it less likely that you’ll feel like you have to hide it when you or someone you love struggles in the future.

We need more mental health professionals and new ways to deliver care.

As awareness about mental illness has grown, and identification of symptoms has increased more people are seeking help than in the past. But there hasn’t been much change in the delivery of mental health care. While the number of training spots of psychiatrists has been increasing gradually year to year, the rates of increase have not kept up with the demand. More people get mental health treatment from their general doctor that from a specialist in mental health.

Mental health awareness encourages brilliant young professionals to choose to work in the field of mental health, and understanding the need encourages communities to come up with new and creative ways to offer care. Examples of innovations in recent years include integrating a mental health professional into primary care offices, and mental health urgent care (www.sigmamhuc.com) and crisis clinics. 

Posted on May 15, 2017 .