Mental Health Awareness Month helps destigmatize mental illness through awareness, education

Mental Health Awareness Month is this May. It spreads awareness, educates and offers assistance for people struggling with mental health.

Graphic by Abbie Goldstein '22

Mental Health Awareness Month is this May. It spreads awareness, educates and offers assistance for people struggling with mental health.

A stigma: when one views another in a negative way because of a distinguishing characteristic or personal trait that is thought to be or actually is, a disadvantage. 

It is a well-known fact that mental illnesses have been stigmatized, frowned upon and disapproved throughout history. People struggling with mental health face plenty of challenges beneath the surface and often isolate themselves because they feel misunderstood. With the month of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, it is important to shed light on the underlying issues to let those who are struggling know that they are not alone.

Since 1949, Mental Health America (MHA) and its affiliates across the United States have contributed to Mental Health Awareness Month by reaching out to millions of people through the media, local events and screenings. In 2021, the MHA continues with its theme of Tools 2 Thrive, providing practical tools that people can use to improve their mental health and increase their resiliency, regardless of their personal situation.

“Our work has resulted in positive change,” the MHA official website states. “We have educated millions about mental health conditions and reduced barriers to treatment and services. As a result of Mental Health America’s efforts, many Americans with mental health conditions have sought care and now enjoy fulfilling, productive lives in their communities.”

In addition, members of the Staples community are taking their own steps to help spread awareness and educate others on mental health. Sasha Barnett ’22 has posted videos on her Instagram account, racking up thousands of views. She shares advice, personal opinions and words of support with her followers.

“Not only was I helping others through my videos but I was helping myself externalize the way I feel and finally using my voice,” Barnett said.

Researchers have found that now, more than ever, it is important to destigmatize and normalize mental health. The COVID-19 pandemic has isolated great numbers of people and has had a profound impact on the mental health of people of all ages. 

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “During the pandemic, about four in ten adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder […] up from one in ten adults who reported these symptoms from Jan. to June 2019.”

Many believe that the establishment of a Mental Health Awareness Month is a good step in educating others and acknowledging the struggles that come with mental illnesses.

“During a stressful time like the pandemic, so many people are struggling with mental health,” Shawn Zhai ’22 said. “That is why we need to publicize and help people that are struggling, which is the reason Mental Health Awareness Month is so important.”

There are many things that Staples students can do to help break the stigma of mental health, such as educating themselves about mental illnesses.

“Listen to your friends, peers, strangers, anyone who wants to open up to you,” Barnett said. “Learn about mental health and mental illnesses – the more information you know the better. And, make sure your friends feel supported and like they have a comfortable environment to express their feelings in.