Every May since 1949 “Mental Health Month” has been observed in the United States. Organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (“NAMI”) and Mental Health America have worked to both raise awareness of and stop the stigma associated with mental health.
Mental health has come a long way since 1949. We have seen, in the last few years especially, people treated for mental issues come forward and share their stories publically in order to help others. There has also been an increase in adults and children seeking therapy and medication for their care in a much more open way. Pediatricians and primary care physicians alike are regularly screening their patients for mood and substance abuse disorders in order to provide adequate and better care.
These steps forward have resulted in people getting better, getting married, having children, and enjoying their lives in ways never dreamed of 50 years ago! We have made extraordinary strides in research for treatments that work, putting symptoms of anxiety and depression into remission. Side effects stemming from these psychotropic medications have also been reduced making them more “user friendly.” In doing so, people are more willing to take them.
Despite the advances we have seen, we still have more to do in order to reduce the stigma associated with mental health. Reducing this stigma means, for example, that adolescents and veterans – groups that have seen increases in suicide attempts – may reach out for treatment and not fear being made fun of or told their symptoms are “in their head.” Increasing awareness may allow families to ask for support when someone they love is in a psychiatric hospital or has serious mental illness. We may be more willing to reach out to them in their time of need to offer assistance, too.
Another area we must continue to make improvements is in the area of treatment. Unfortunately, for too many people, their medications aren’t effective for long periods of time and/or their symptoms return. We need to continue to find effective treatments for people that are “treatment resistant” – basically these patients do not respond to the medications that are available.
All of us at Oasis hope that you’ve enjoyed a beautiful spring this month of May and that you have found time to do your part to raise awareness of the importance of mental health wellbeing. Sharing your story with others will not only raise awareness of mental health wellbeing, but also perhaps even help someone in need, too. Take good care!