Raising Mental Health Awareness During May’s Mental Health Month

May 14, 2021

In 1949, May received the designation of Mental Health Month by Mental Health America and other non-profit organizations founded to promote mental health awareness. Mental health conditions are often stigmatized, preventing people from seeking help when they need it. Mental Health Month aims to promote education, outreach, and support to people dealing with mental health struggles and their families. This year, Mental Health Month is critical in the wake of the public health crisis, which has profoundly impacted the lives of many.

Cases of Mental Health Conditions Are on the Rise

In a recent report released by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, ongoing surveys show that adults reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression have significantly increased since August 2020. Beginning in April 2020, the CDC has been conducting ongoing surveys in partnership with the US Census Bureau to evaluate the impact COVID-19 has had on the mental health of American adults. From August 2020 to February 2021, responses show that anxiety or depression-related symptoms have affected more of the population. In August, symptoms were reported by 35.1% of respondents, increasing to 41.5% in February.

More people have reported seeking help for mental conditions as incidence has risen, increasing from 22.4% to 24.8% in the same period. However, so too has the number of people reporting that their mental health needs have gone unmet. In August, 9.2% reported not receiving mental health care, versus 11.7% in February. Of respondents, the largest group reporting unmet mental health needs were adults between the ages of 18 and 29 years old.

However, even before the effects of the public health crisis, reports of mental health conditions were on the rise, making Mental Health Month more important than ever. Since 2011, the number of adults reporting that their mental health needs have gone unmet has not decreased, Mental Health America found.

Improving Mental Health Can Improve Heart Health

While increases in mental health conditions are often the cause of a related rise in thoughts of suicide or self-harm, it can also adversely affect cardiovascular health. In a recent American American Heart Association publication from the American Heart Association, findings show mental health is closely related to cardiovascular disorders. The review found that social isolation and loneliness increased the risk of cardiovascular diseases by 50%, work-related stress by 40%, post-traumatic stress disorder by 61%, and other sources of stress at 27%. At the same time, anxiety leads to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease-related mortality, stroke, and heart failure. Similarly, studies show depression increases the risk for heart attacks, stroke, and coronary heart disease.

By decreasing mental health conditions and improving mental health, people benefit from a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases and related adverse outcomes. Studies have shown that maintaining a positive mental state promotes a healthier cardiovascular system by reducing adverse biological processes.

Mental Health Month 2021 is Focused on Building Resiliency

Mental Health America’s campaign aims to help people dealing with mental health build practical tools to improve their mental health and resiliency. They have chosen to address adaptation after trauma, dealing with anger, processing large changes, and taking time for self-care amongst other topics.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness’s mission for Mental Health Month is to ensure that no one feels alone. Throughout the month, the organization will share stories and personal experiences so that people know they are not alone in their struggle. NAMI hopes to help people with mental health conditions get the support and care needed to facilitate healthy, fulfilling lives.

Help Is Available

For those seeking treatment or referrals, the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration has established a confidential hotline available 24/7, 365 days a year. Patients and their families can call 800-662-HELP.

The NAMI hotline is also available at 800-950-NAMI or by texting NAMI to 741741.

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