Why 2021's Mental Health Awareness Month is So Significant
For 72 years, May has been recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, researchers have seen a substantial increase in mental health issues. And many people are struggling silently.
It has been over a year since students transitioned to online learning, since healthcare workers found themselves on the front lines of a pandemic, since most of us were rapidly shifted into remote work environments. All of these unprecedented challenges have taken a toll on people’s mental health and well-being. This is why now, more than ever, it's important to open up conversations about mental health.
Mental Health Awareness Month was established in 1949 in order to increase awareness of the importance of mental health and wellness in American lives. Having an entire month dedicated to this discussion can help to normalize and remove the stigma attached to mental health issues.
These conversations about mental health, however, shouldn’t be isolated to just one month. It's crucial that we keep up the discourse around emotional and behavioral well-being all year round.
So why is it important to talk about these subjects? Well, for one, we need to eliminate the stigma.
Mental health is a crucial part of our overall wellness, yet it is often a taboo subject. Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are only continuing to become more prevalent as we begin to see the effects of COVID-19. The stigma, however, often prevents individuals from seeking treatment, leading to further isolation. Talking about mental health improves our communities by making it more acceptable for those struggling to seek help, gain tools, and learn to cope.
As someone who personally struggles with anxiety, I know how nerve-wracking it can be to open up and reach out for help, but it has been so beneficial for me. That is why I am a huge mental health advocate and always encourage people to explore the various resources that are available.
Mental health is also about maintaining a positive state of well-being.
A positive state of well-being means that you feel good about what is happening in your life, you feel a sense of connection to others, and you are living with purpose and meaning. Obviously, with social distancing and isolation, many of us feel as though we haven’t been able to achieve a positive state of well-being, and I can definitely attest to that. However, even amidst the pandemic, there are still ways to harness this disposition...even if it feels impossible!
I compiled this list of tips to help get you started:
1. Provide warm, comforting, social support via phone call or text.
While the pandemic makes it more difficult to see each other in person, we are SO lucky to live in the age of technology that allows us to connect from a distance. Taking time to connect with friends, family, and loved ones will go a long way. Sharing feelings with people who love and care about you can also help you feel safe and validated. Even if you don’t want to open up about your feelings, just being surrounded by people (in-person or virtually) can help to boost your mood. Call a friend, host a Zoom dinner party, or Facetime a family member!
2. Find ways to express kindness, patience, and compassion
Especially during such a difficult time, it is important to be extra kind to yourself. Make sure to set aside some time each day for some self-care! Whether it is watching a movie, going to sleep early, reading a book, or taking a nice walk just find some way to show yourself some love. In addition to showing love and kindness to yourself, also find ways to show kindness to others. Expressing gratitude is one of the easiest ways to show compassion for others and you can do so by keeping a gratitude journal or just by texting someone something nice!
3. Create a healthy routine
Routines can be very restorative for people as they help us feel more in control. Make a plan that works for you and set realistic goals for yourself. Getting a good night's sleep, spending time outside, eating healthy, and remaining active are all great activities to help improve your mood and well-being!