Take Time to Recognize Mental Health Awareness Month

graphic image of heads for mental health awareness month
Written by
Jenna Elizabeth
May 13, 2024

As of 2024, the National Institutes of Health reports that 57.8 million, or one in five adults, live with some form of mental illness. Unfortunately, mental health remains a stigmatized subject, and plenty of people throughout the nation are afraid of reaching out for help. Mental Health Awareness Month aims to change this by offering a threefold purpose that can help individuals and communities begin talking about mental health openly. The three points that Mental Health Awareness Month addresses are the following:

  • Creating greater awareness around mental health 
  • Educating people about the impacts of mental health
  • Destigmatizing mental health

May provides a month-long opportunity to recognize people struggling with mental afflictions and highlight the importance of accessible mental health services for all individuals. Keep reading for a guide on everything you need to know to observe Mental Health Awareness Month.

When Is Mental Health Awareness Month? 

Since 1949, the nation has recognized May as Mental Health Awareness Month. The National Association for Mental Health—now called Mental Health America (MHA)—founded it to raise awareness and educate the public about mental illness, as well as to reduce the stigma around these struggles. 

Mental Health Awareness Month aims to raise awareness about mental health issues, reduce stigma around the topic, and encourage a safe space for individuals suffering from mental health issues to speak up and reach out. This month also represents the importance of healthcare systems providing adequate and accessible mental health resources for struggling individuals. 

When Is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Month? 

While May is the month of mental health awareness for all age groups, May 7th marks Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. This significant day emphasizes the importance of improving the mental wellbeing of children and youth. 

Worldwide, 15 percent of young people aged 10 to 19 have mental health disorders. In the United States alone, 20 percent of children and adolescents ages three to 17 have emotional, cognitive, behavioral, or developmental disorders. 

Since wellbeing in childhood is critical, families, educators, and policymakers must unite to help expand mental health initiatives for children and youth. Therefore, Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day (May 7th) is a time to reduce stigma, promote early intervention, and encourage access to mental health services for children. By taking these actions, communities can help foster healthier and happier youth nationwide and globally.

How Can Policy Makers Prioritize Mental Health?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is “A state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community.” 

General anxiety disorder (GAD) continues to be the most prevalent mental affliction nationwide, affecting over 40 million adults, or 19.1 percent of the population. Major depression is also one of the most widespread mental illnesses, affecting over 8 percent (21 million) of American adults each year. Moreover, statistics show that 3.7 million young people (ages 12–17) are also affected by major depression. The following are ways policymakers can prioritize mental health: 

  1. Expanding mental health and behavioral services nationwide
  2. Allocating funds to crucial mental health initiatives, such as access to healthcare and substance abuse programs (etc.)
  3. Encouraging companies to offer job opportunities for individuals with mental health disorders
  4. Deploying mental crisis teams to communities that need immediate mental health services
  5. Protecting consumers’ rights to funding and reimbursements for mental health services

Importance of Mental Health for Nursing Professionals

Maintaining positive morale and mental health in the workplace can help nurses cope with everyday stressors such as long days, high levels of stress, and challenging situations on the job. In addition, since nurse burnout is becoming more common in healthcare settings, it’s even more critical to support nurses’ mental health. Luckily, there are several apps and services designed to make it easier to address mental health issues that may arise while working in the fast-paced and high-stress environments of the healthcare industry. 

Here are some of the best apps for nurses looking for mental health support: 

  1. Headspace: Need a little more daily zen? Consider downloading Headspace, the science-backed meditation app. This on-the-go app claims to reduce stress by 14 percent in 10 days. 
  2. Therapy Aid: The Therapy Aid Coalition is a volunteer-based collective of experienced, licensed private-practice therapists committed to providing free or low-cost online therapy to essential workers across the United States.
  3. Cerebral: Nurses work long shifts, making it hard to get away to attend in-person therapy sessions during the day. Therefore, Cerebral is a digital “go-to” resource as it’s a fully remote telehealth company that understands the need for flexibility with healthcare workers.

In addition to these apps, here are some other strategies to deal with burnout and fatigue as a nurse:

Focus, Engage, and Pay Attention

When people are under stress, negative feelings often consume them:

  • They remember challenging events.
  • They obsess about the future.
  • They feel overcome by worry.

These feelings hook people and distance them from who they want to be. If this is happening to you, try to reconnect with here and now. Connecting means genuinely listening to your kids talk about what happened at the playground and giving your patients full attention when taking their vitals or listening to them describe their symptoms. It also means savoring each sip of your cup of coffee, taking the time to notice the warmth and identify the different scents. You can unhook yourself from these reoccurring negative thoughts by focusing on the present moment.

Ground Yourself

Grounding is a similar technique to engaging in the sense that it reconnects us with the present. This technique can be beneficial when we feel out of control and when our reoccurring thoughts are less like pesky flies and more like threatening thunderstorms. At these moments, try to reduce the power of these thoughts by turning to your body:

  • Focus on your breathing.
  • Feel gravity pulling you towards the floor.
  • Identify what your five senses are telling you about your surroundings.

Grounding won’t eliminate the negative feelings, but it will keep you in a safe harbor until the storm’s intensity passes. 

A Month to Recognize Psychiatric Mental Health Nurses 

A psychiatric nurse, also known as a psychiatric-mental health nurse, specializes in mental health assessment, crisis intervention, patient assistance, medication management, and therapy. These nurses may provide care at almost all stages of patient treatment. Mental Health Awareness Month can also be an opportunity to honor the contributions made by psychiatric nurses, who are essential in promoting mental health and providing support to those who are struggling with mental health issues. Hospitals and other medical settings nationwide can honor nurses by hosting events, such as luncheons or dinners, or giving out gifts to psychiatric nurses. These small gestures can make a psychiatric nurse feel appreciated for their time and dedication.

Mental Health Awareness Month: Ending the Stigma

With greater awareness and education about mental health and the destigmatization of mental illness in society, each person can contribute to the physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing of children, families, and entire communities. Celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month to foster more open dialogue about mental health and work towards reducing the stigma surrounding mental health issues once and for all.

Are you a nurse looking to help patients in need? Sign up and start picking up PRN nursing shifts with Nursa today.

Sources: 

Blog published on:
May 13, 2024

Meet Jenna, a contributing copywriter at Nursa who writes about healthcare news and updates, empathy and compassion for nurses, how to show staff appreciation and increase retention, and guides that help nurses navigate career pathways.

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