Mental health awareness month, observed every May, places a spotlight on mental health and mental illness. The terms mental health and mental illness are broad terms, encompassing a lot (it can be argued that because these terms involve brain and body, mind and spirit, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and relationship with self and others, mental health and mental illness are truly everything. I think that that is indeed true; however, because it’s difficult to bring awareness to “everything,” here are just five specific things you should know about mental health and mental illness for mental health awareness month.
Mental health is the living of life and the shaping of values and actions to create a life worth living despite problems.
5 Things You Should Know for Mental Health Awareness Month
1) Mental health is for everyone.
That means mental health is for you, regardless of whether or not you live with mental illness. We’re all human beings working our way through life. We all face challenges and problems and various types of illness. We experience loss. We deal with problems in our outer world, and we deal with problems in our inner world. Sometimes the problems are related to mental illness. And despite all of this, we experience joy, happiness, accomplishments, and gains. We have positive relationships. We have goals, purpose, and passions.
2) Mental health and mental illness aren’t either-or concepts
Mental illness doesn’t mean the absence of mental health; likewise, mental health isn’t the absence of mental illness. Mental illnesses are disorders within the brain. That doesn’t mean that people with a mental illness can’t live well and thrive. Also, sometimes people experience periods of hardship where they don’t feel like they’re thriving, yet they don’t have a diagnosable mental disorder.
3) Mental health is, in part, how we experience both ourselves and the world around us.
Mental illnesses, such as trauma disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and more, impact how people interpret the world around them as well as how they think and feel on the inside. Each and every one of us has a unique way of thinking, feeling, and acting. Sometimes, our thoughts, feelings, or actions get in our way. If that’s the case, we are allowed to make changes and grow. This growth, too, is part of mental health.
4) Human connection is an important part of mental health.
Human beings are social creatures, and we need connections with others in order to thrive. Some people like lots of connection and interaction, while others want just a bit. Neither one of those is wrong. The important thing is to foster connections because support is healing. There can be barriers to getting connected, which is another reason mental health awareness month is so important—it can help make people aware that it’s okay to reach out.
5) Mental health is active.
Mental health is thinking, feeling, and doing. Mental health is accepting that there are problems and imperfections, including serious mental illness, and taking steps forward anyway. Mental health is knowing what you want, why you want it, and how you can get it All of this is part of mental health, the living of life and the shaping of values and actions to create a life worth living despite obstacles and challenges big and small.
May shines a light on what mental health is all about. Ideally, that light will continue to glow year-round, to help people understand what mental health is, what mental illness is, and how they can create a life worth living regardless of obstacles faced.
Enjoying books is one way to keep mental health at the forefront of your priorities. These mental health books can help you power your journey:
What is something you do for your mental health? Leave a comment below!