Written by Jennie Null, LMFT, RPT-S
Every year, the month of May is celebrated as Mental Health Awareness Month. I believe a potential silver lining emerging out of the COVID -19 pandemic is the increasing attention and advocacy efforts highlighting the importance of supporting mental health wellbeing across all systems, organizations, communities, and lifespan. In the last year, we have each had to face the reality that none of us are immune from experiencing mental health struggles within our life. Unaddressed mental health has a rippling effect and, whether we have experienced the struggle personally, witnessed the struggle alongside a loved one, or have seen the impact within our workplaces and communities, we have all felt this impact. While the level of increased attention and conversations happening around mental health awareness currently happening brings me hope for future possibilities, my 15+ years working in the mental health field has also instilled a recognition for the unrelenting needs of mental health awareness and increased actions to support mental wellbeing across all systems and communities.
The World Health Organization reports several breathtaking statistics on the impact of mental health. For children and adolescents, it is reported that around 20% of them are currently struggling with a mental health condition; suicide has risen to the 2nd leading cause of death for 15–29-year-olds; the global economy loses 1 trillion US dollars annually from the impact of depression and anxiety alone; governments only allocate a median of 2% of annual health care budgets toward mental health care (2021).
When I read these statistics, my heart sinks, and I ask myself why there is only one month dedicated to raising awareness of the daily struggles in mental wellness facing our youth, families, co-workers, neighbors, and fellow humans. I remind myself of my belief in resilience and of the responsibilities I have: to share helpful, accurate, information; to offer compassionate support, acceptance, and understanding to those I meet; to use my voice and advocate to our policy makers, government officials, and leaders in all fields to keep improving.
When I think of a world in which mental wellbeing is a top priority or at least an equal priority to physical health, I can see a world filled with resilient and driven humans using their strengths, skills, and assets to contribute to the greater good. I see a world where communities flourish and no longer hide in the shadows of violence and heartache. I see a world in which parents and caregivers are confident they will see their child grow because death by suicide drops to the bottom of the list. I see a world filled with ongoing innovation across all fields of business, development, and service provision. I see a world that values all humans equally and sees the importance of lifting up one another during times of need. I see a world in which I am proud to live and share with my own children and family. Today is a day when other humans are in need. Who is willing to work alongside one another to lift them up?