As we reach the end of Mental Health Awareness Month, I’d like to reflect a little bit. I often reflect on the state of mental health; I try to figure out how we, as a society, view mental health and wellness. In the year since the last Mental Health Awareness Month, have we improved things? What does it mean to spread awareness, and are we doing a good enough job? There are many conclusions this month has led me to, but what I want to focus on today are next steps. How do we go beyond mental health awareness? How can we build a better world, focused on wellness and healing?
For a long time, my approach to mental health focused on awareness. I felt that if I knew what was going on, I could find solutions. I learned as much as I could about anxiety and depression, hoping to learn something that would help me beat it. While it wasn’t the worst approach to mental health I’ve taken, I thought it would be more effective than it was.
As I wrote this, a quote popped into my head: “Knowing is half the battle” (I later learned that this quote is from G.I. Joe, which was the last thing I was expecting). Now while I wouldn’t quite agree to the exact percentage they use, I like the idea behind it. When it comes to mental health awareness, knowledge is a big part of things. Raising awareness can improve people’s lives, and teach us how to help others. And while it’s a big step in changing the attitude surrounding mental health, it’s only the first one.
To be honest, there’s much more work to do. Our attitude toward mental health permeates through so many aspects of our lives. It’s a vital part of our experience, the way we view the world, and the way society treats us. For centuries, our attitude toward mental health was shaped by shame, stigma, and ignoring the real problem. Things are finally starting to change, but there’s more work to do, and it doesn’t stop at the end of this month.
So, what do we do now? How do we take the next step? It’s easier said than done, but there’s a role for each of us in this work. We all have our own approaches to mental health, whether we admit it or not. Our voices matter, and we can all weigh in because we ALL have mental health.
Every year, I try to leave this month having learned something new about mental health. Sometimes it’s personal, but it can also be about society, community or mental health in general. This year, I learned about the importance of taking the next step. Wherever you are on your mental health journey (and it looks different for everyone), I encourage you to take that next step. We might not be moving at the same pace but when we all move together, we can change the way we view things. I hope you take what you’ve learned this month and put it out into the world all year round – I know I will!
Now, I want to hear from you. What’s something you you learned during Mental Health Awareness Month? Let me know in the comments!