Mental Health Month: What You Should Know

While supporting good mental health is something we like to focus on all year long, the effort gets ramped up a notch during May when the nation officially observes Mental Health Month.

Led by Mental Health America, the annual observance has taken place for more than 65 years. Each year MHA focuses on a different theme. Themes from past years include topics like ‘Live Your Life Well’ (encouraging people to take responsibility for preventing mental health issues during times of personal challenge and stress) and ‘Mind Your Health’ (building public recognition about the importance of overall health and wellness of those around us).

This year’s theme is shortened to the Twitter-friendly hashtag #B4Stage4. The idea is to address the way we deal with mental health issues the same way we do physical ailments. Rather than waiting to treat problems until they are in their final stages, it’s best to start with prevention.

“When we think about cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, we don’t wait years to treat them,” says Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO of MHA. “We start before Stage 4 — we begin with prevention. So why don’t we do the same for individuals who are dealing with potentially serious mental illness? Like other diseases, mental health conditions should be treated long before they reach the most critical points in the disease process — before Stage 4.” That means identifying early symptoms and treating them before they have a chance to become more serious.

MHA suggests a number of ways to nip mental health issues in the bud:

  • Take a confidential mental health screening and encouraging others to do the same
  • Join an advocacy group to make your voice heard on mental health-related policy and funding issues
  • Connect with friends and family to help them raise awareness of mental health

Mental health agencies all over the country are taking part in this month’s campaign with fundraisers, seminars and other events. If you or your organization wishes to join the effort, the MHA offers several helpful resources.

David Lowenstein, Ph.D. is a psychologist and the clinical director of Lowenstein & Associates, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing therapeutic services to individuals and families, he offers training and consultation to numerous associations, schools and agencies around the country. Additionally, he is a frequent radio and TV guest and a resource and contributing writer for numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide.