Every year, the month of May is designated as mental health month (also known as national mental health month). That’s a good thing, because mental health is an issue that touches practically everyone at some point in their lives.

Many people have anxiety, depression, a struggle with drug addiction or alcohol abuse, an eating disorder, or another issue with mental health. If they don’t experience such things firsthand, there’s a good chance that they know someone who does.

How common are mental health conditions? Some statistics:

  • About twenty percent of all U.S. residents have a mental health condition, which in 2017 amounted to about 46.6 million people.
  • About 7.1 percent of all U.S. adults experienced one or more major depressive disorder in 2017, or about 17.3 million people.
  • Around one in five adult U.S. residents reported having an anxiety disorder during their lives. Women are over twice as likely to report having anxiety.
  • Over 300 million people around the world have depression.

Clearly, if hundreds of millions of people have mental health conditions, they aren’t rare. But despite their prevalence, sometimes people don’t know much about them. To raise awareness, we can use the month of May to acknowledge mental health and do something about it:

  • Seeking help. Mental health month helps publicize the fact that agencies and organizations may assist people with their mental heath. This assistance may come in the form of information from the federal government or local agencies that place people in jobs.
  • Talking about it. Campaigns such as mental health month publicize the stories of real people who have mental health issues. Mental health issues aren’t unusual things that happen to unusual people. They’re common occurrences that everyday people face and triumph over.
  • Lending a hand. Who knows mental health better than people who have had mental health conditions themselves? A number of agencies have programs that train volunteers to assist people with their mental health needs.
  • Learning about it. Mental health issues might sound vague and even intimidating. We might not know where to start addressing it. But leaning about it can help us approach it. If we talk with our peers, medical providers, or consult the internet, newspapers, or magazines, we can learn more about mental health and its impact on people.

Mental health month is therefore a month of learning and doing. We might have mental health issues or have a loved one with them, but we might not know anything about them. The month reminds us that the issues exist and not on some abstract level. Every day, they affect millions of real people with real lives, so it’s harmful and unproductive to stigmatize something so common.

Instead, the month reminds us that we can do things to help other people and to help ourselves.

About the author: Pamela Zuber is a writer and editor who has written about a wide variety of topics, including physical and mental health, addiction, politics, and gender.

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