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Mental Health Awareness Month – It Should be Every Month
Since 1949, when Mental Health America (MHA) started Mental Health Awareness Month, the United States has recognized it in May. Think about that . . . that is 74 years of celebrating the importance of mental health in our country! 74 years! That is more than seven decades of highlighting the possibility of recovery, the research and treatments that make recovery more likely to be successful, working to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, and recognizing the importance of education and awareness to reach those who may need help.
I have been a part of this field for 12 of those 74 years, and I have to say just in my time in this area, I have seen significant improvement around awareness, education, research, and accessibility to necessary care. While there is still much work to be done, the amount of improvement I have seen is encouraging.
However, post-pandemic we have seen an increase in anxiety and depression, coupled with a shortage of workforce. This has only increased the need for more funding, research, awareness, and acceptance of mental health. The pandemic did have one silver lining when it comes to mental health, it seemed to have opened the door for more conversation and understanding of the importance of mental health for all. I believe that is a start for even more widespread improvement in our field.
Each one of us has mental health. We may not be living with a diagnosed mental health condition, but we all likely know someone who is, and we all certainly have mental health that we each need to take care of and work at to keep healthy and well. Our mental health plays a significant role in our overall well-being, productivity, and fulfillment in life. It should be something that we are working to improve daily, and something we all need to be aware of well beyond the month of May.
So, I challenge you this mental health month, to come up with a mental health wellness plan for yourself. What coping skills can you easily implement when you’re faced with a difficult or stressful situation? What resources are available to you if you should start feeling depressed or anxious in a way that starts impacting your life? What tools can you use to focus on positivity and gratitude? Who could you call if things start to feel overwhelming? What self-care practices can you start implementing in your life on a daily or weekly basis? What can you personally do to raise awareness and acceptance of mental health in your circles? What reminders or affirmations can you set so you always remember you are never alone?
Create this list/plan when you are feeling healthy and well so that you have a clear mind and the next time you need it, it’s completed and right there for you to utilize. I also encourage you to come up with one or two ways that you can personally start practicing checking in on someone. Maybe it’s a neighbor, friend, colleague, or loved one. Maybe it is a stranger you are passing by on the sidewalk or grocery aisle that simply looks like they may need a reminder that they aren’t alone, and a burst of hope into their day.
Lastly, I challenge each of you, no matter your role in our community, to take this awareness and acceptance even further, into action. We need to keep the tradition of Mental Health Awareness Month going strong – next year will be a big one, 75! – but we also need to focus on the mental health of ourselves and our community no matter what date the calendar shows. Enjoy this month; there are so many great events and activities celebrating mental health, so get out there and take part!
For more information on how you can get involved, please contact The Kim Foundation office at 402.891.6911 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julia Hebenstreit, Executive Director of The Kim Foundation
Julia Hebenstreit is the Executive Director of The Kim Foundation. She received her J.D. from Creighton University in 2005, and her BS in Journalism from the University of Nebraska Omaha in 2002. She has been with The Kim Foundation since 2011, and prior to that worked for local non-profits doing development, strategic planning, communications and advancement. She has a passion for helping people and improving lives, and serves on the Executive Committee for Nebraska Association of Behavioral Health Organizations, as the 2015 Hill Day State Captain for the state of Nebraska, and as an active member of the Nebraska Suicide Prevention Coalition, the Early Childhood Mental Health Coalition, BHECN Advisory Committee, RESPECT Advisory Board, Connections Advisory Board and the Project Propel Planning Group.