Your Guide To Mental Health Awareness Month

More than one-fifth of people in the United States are living their daily lives with at least one mental illness, as estimated by the National Institute of Mental Health in 2021. That totals over 58 million Americans, a number so staggeringly large it's nearly incomprehensible. Almost equally incomprehensible is the fact that societal stigma and a largely inaccessible mental healthcare system keep more than half of these individuals from receiving the treatment they need (via Mental Health America).


May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States, as declared by Mental Health America in 1949. For the past 74 years, the organization has worked to increase mainstream awareness of mental health concerns, decrease the negative stigma around mental health, and celebrate the recovery from and treatment of mental illnesses across the United States. If you consider yourself a mental health advocate, you'll need to know exactly how you can learn from and participate in Mental Health Awareness Month and we've got you covered. 

Mental Health Awareness Month 2023

Each year, during the month of May, Mental Health America focuses on a particular aspect of mental health. This year, their campaign is focusing on the impact of our surroundings. A person's surroundings can include everything from their housing and domestic relationships to their access to community support, mental health resources, and nature. For instance, it's estimated that nearly one-third of homeless Americans struggle with serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia spectrum disorders and severe bipolar disorder (via Mental Illness Policy Org).


Even those without serious psychiatric disorders can benefit from becoming more aware of the effects their surroundings can have on their overall mental health. Making time to experience nature, for example, can aid in recovering from mental stress and boost your coping skills. Being surrounded by peers, friends, or family members who care about your well-being is key to preventing an elevated risk of depressive symptoms. Throughout May of 2023, Mental Health America will share information about how people can change their surroundings and also how they can cope more efficiently in situations where change isn't an option. 

Common mental health struggles

Many people think of very serious disorders like psychosis or dissociative identity disorder when they contemplate mental illness. However, most people in the United States with mental illness suffer from one or more types of the most common mental health disorders: anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Since these common disorders don't always produce severe symptoms such as hallucinations or suicidal ideation, they are often swept under the rug.


Campaigns like Mental Health Awareness Month set out to send the message that all mental health matters. Whether you are currently struggling with a diagnosable mental illness or not, you can benefit from becoming aware of your own mental health status and taking the necessary steps to protect and maintain it. Caring for your mental health is just as important as caring for your physical health and no one is above mental health struggles. Widespread awareness is the key to normalizing these facts. 

Recent progress

Over the past two decades, there has been a marked decrease in the societal stigma associated with mental health and mental illness. While it may be popular to believe that the widespread accessibility of the internet and social media platforms has negatively affected mainstream American society, it is likely the reason mental health struggles have become more normalized than ever before. The internet provides support from other people with the same mental health struggles as those who may live in isolated areas of the country, encouraging both self and societal acceptance.


Social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram have seen mental health-related topics and creators soar to unprecedented heights of popularity. Seeing admired content creators in a personalized video format is a powerful way to change mental illnesses from loose concepts heavily impacted by cultural stereotypes to relatable struggles that could happen to anyone. This is why you'll see so many online creators promoting Mental Health Awareness Month across their social media platforms. 

How you can help

Sharing information that can help to normalize mental health awareness isn't limited to Mental Health America, healthcare professionals, and TikTok influencers. Everyday people can get involved in a number of different ways. This year, start by assessing your own surroundings in the context of mental health. If you find areas that could use improvement, share your findings with the people in your life and encourage them to do the same.


If you're a social (media) butterfly, you can download Mental Health America's Mental Health Awareness Month Toolkit, which will provide you with pre-made tips, infographics, fact sheets, and articles ready for sharing online. Keep an eye out for brands supporting Mental Health Awareness Month with their own events, too. For example, L.L. Bean is holding a Feel-Good Challenge encouraging people to sign up, log their time spent outdoors, and pool that time together toward a goal of 500,000 outdoor hours in May. If the goal is met, the company will donate $50,000 to Mental Health America. You can make an impact by participating, sharing, or both.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.