Thoughts on Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. And while I do not personally agree with designating certain months to make the public aware of certain issues, I do believe that this month can be so much more and can lead to greater conversations throughout the whole year. Many institutions and organizations use this month to hold speakers, walks, or other activities surrounding mental health awareness, many of which raise money to support mental health research. 


My struggle with mental health has never been easy but it is not something I am ashamed of in any way. I have seen countless inaccurate and stigmatizing representations in the media of mental health. One of the misconceptions that has always bothered me the most is that depression, anxiety, or other mental health problems make one fragile. 


While at times I have felt small due to depression and anxiety, over time I believe that it has made me stronger and more aware of myself and others. Growing up in a “perfect” suburb, I have witnessed a lot of shame around acknowledging mental health problems. Getting help is nothing to be afraid or ashamed of, the strength in taking that step deserves praise and admiration.


I understand how scary it can be to admit that you are not feeling 100%. Pretending that you are okay when you are not can make things a lot worse in the long run. Find the people you trust and talk to them. 1 in 5 American adults struggle with their mental health in any given year so chances are, someone you know might have some slight understanding of what is going on. Every individual’s journey with their mental health is different so remember that sometimes the best thing to do is just listen. Listen with the intent to understand, not to reply. 


Although this month gives us an opportunity to start the conversation, it is equally important to be cognizant of how these conversations can make other people feel. It can be uncomfortable and scary to be thrown into a space in which one might not feel safe. Be conscious of your own words and be an active ally if someone is making an insensitive comment. We have the power to help the millions of Americans suffering from mental health issues, both on and off our campus.