May is Mental Health Month —Why EVERYONE Should Care

It seems like every month is National “Something” Month. For many, this is never more than a new Google Doodle and an announcement on the radio. While each month’s designation is important, I personally believe that May should be paid extra attention to, especially this year. Since 1949, May is Mental Health Month. Each year, Mental Health America creates activities and tools to help everyone better their mental health as well as to show the world the importance of prioritizing mental health. This year, the theme is Tools 2 Thrive and includes pictographs about “Owning Your Feelings,” “Creating Healthy Routines,” “Supporting Others,” and many more. (To explore these on your own or to download the entire kit for free click here.)

Why is mental health so important to dedicate an entire month to it? Well, to begin, one in five people will have a mental illness at some point in their life, but everyone will have days that are better and days that are worse. Even those who would not say they struggle with their own mental health are likely to have others in their life who do. Not to scare anyone, but even those of you reading this right now thinking “but I don’t know anyone struggling with mental illness” could actually interact with someone struggling every day. “But how could my mom, dad, sister, brother, best friend, significant other, boss, co-worker, etc, be depressed? How could they be suicidal and I don't even know?” 

The answer is not simple. In our world, there is such a stigma around mental health that many choose to suffer in silence out of the fear that even those closest to them will not accept the battles inside their brain. 

Far too many of us can recall reading a headline or seeing a tribute post on Instagram to honor someone who has taken their own life. Most of these take us completely by surprise. Another unwelcome surprise, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the US and is the 2nd leading cause of death worldwide among those aging from 15 to 24. (For more scary statistics, click here.) 

It is not a fun conversation, but it is an important one to have nonetheless. Especially in times like these, when milestones are being reached in living rooms, once in a lifetime occasions are being celebrated by holding posters outside of car windows, and many are stuck in unhappy homes with nothing to do but sit in their thoughts, not to mention the fear that the world will never be the same again— this is a conversation that needs to be had. 

While the month is half over, it isn’t too late to start making the most of it. Text your friends from school, ask them how they are doing being back home. Ask your family over dinner how they are coping with the COVID crisis. Who is the strongest person you know? Call them and ask how they are and if the answer is a quick “good, how are you?” reply with “no, how are you really?” Listen to their answer. The next time someone asks you, try to answer honestly, even if it’s terrifying

Mental health doesn’t need to be stigmatized, and it doesn’t have to be an isolated journey. We all run into storms, for some us we only ever feel a light drizzle of rain, but for others, the same storm clouds indicate a hurricane. Either way, when there is someone else to help you hold the umbrella, surviving becomes a little easier.  So hold the umbrella, not just during a pandemic, not just in the hurricane, and not just in May, but in every storm and in every month. You may never know the difference you’re making until the storm has passed.