Mental Health Month, and this year's theme - Life With a Mental Illness - is being described as a call to action aimed at encouraging people to share what the experience of mental illness feels like in order to help others who may be struggling to explain what they are going through, encourage others to recognize symptoms earlier, and to reduce stigma. The hope is that this campaign will help people be more comfortable in seeking the help they need.
Mental illnesses are common and treatable; however, there are many barriers that prevent people from seeking treatment. Shame and stigma are a couple of the big ones. Public awareness campaigns that encourage people to talk about mental illness can be helpful tools for raising awareness and reducing stigma.
Mental Health Month was started 67 years ago by Mental Health America to raise awareness about various mental health conditions and promote the importance of positive mental health. In 2015, their materials were seen by 19 million people.
This year's campaign is encouraging people to speak up about how it feels to live with a mental illness by tagging social media posts with #mentalillnessfeelslike. Mental Health America hopes that increased communication about the experience of having a mental illness will build support from friends and family, reduce stigma and discrimination, facilitate recovery, and show others that they are not alone.
Mental Health America has developed a collection of fact sheets and other resources, all of which are available on its website. These resources emphasize the importance of addressing mental health early, recognizing the signs and risk factors of mental illness, understanding what mental illness is and isn't, and how and where to get help.