Why is Mental Health Awareness Important?

Bill Kuzbit

Depending upon the research reviewed, it is estimated that at any time, approximately 20% of the  population is dealing with a mental illness. Statistically, this means if you are a family of five, it is likely  someone has a diagnosable mental illness. This high prevalence is one of the main reasons for mental  health awareness campaigns. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) recognizes the importance of mental health awareness  and includes awareness as part of its mission. NAMI sees emphasizing mental health awareness as a  benefit for not only people dealing with mental illness, but for all people. Each of us impacts the other,  and with the proper insight and understanding, we can do in encouraging and supportive ways. 

Many people do not recognize that they’re experiencing untreated mental health disorders. Through  mental health awareness campaigns, people learn what both mental health and illness look, sound, and  feel like. Mental health awareness helps people recognize symptoms characterizing mental health  disorders. Changes in sleep habits and appetite, impulsive decision making, and increased use of alcohol  and/or other drugs may be symptoms of serious mental health disorders. Symptom recognition can  indirectly and directly influence the decisions people make to seek help for themselves or those close to  them. 

Mental health awareness campaigns inform people of resources they can use to address their mental  health concerns. Coupling a better understanding of symptoms and their significance with an improved  awareness of available resources, increases the potential for people to access treatment services.  Better awareness of how to navigate the network of available treatment providers increases the  likelihood that people seeking treatment like 12-Step programs, medical detox, outpatient counseling  programs, and/or mental health hospitals, will access it. 

Maybe the most significant benefit of mental health awareness is the progress made towards breaking  the stigma people experience when they have a mental health disorder. Despite the fact that mental  health issues impact millions of people, directly or indirectly, there is still a negative connotation  associated with these diagnoses. The fear of judgment by others, loss of employment, and/or loss of  friends or loved ones, may prevent people who need care from seeking and/or accepting treatment. Positive and true messages regarding mental illness, shared by real people with ‘lived experience’ – meaning, they cope with mental illness themselves, help to convey how mental wellness is a human responsibility. 

Awareness is a form of education. The more the general public is aware of the prevalence of mental  health issues; the resources and availability of treatment; and how they can assist people with mental  illness, the more we will all benefit. We should do what we can to learn more about mental health!

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