May is Mental Health Awareness Month – a month dedicated to raising awareness, fighting stigma, and providing support and education. A time when we focus on raising awareness on mental health concerns, including the impact exposure to traumatic events can have on the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of youth, families, schools, and communities.
Established in 1949, the goal of Mental Health Awareness Month is to increase awareness of the importance of mental health and wellness in our lives, destigmatize mental health, and celebrate taking steps toward healing. Awareness and a movement toward reduction in stigmatization has been occurring for the last few decades as state agencies, the public health community, and the general public have recognized the need for prevention, early identification, and early treatment for mental health concerns. But the work doesn't stop there – Pennsylvania joins several other states in the movement to provide mental health treatment through a focus of healing and human-centered approaches.
While we have seen changes in the last few years, the stigma surrounding mental health and treatment still exists, and many people still hesitate to reach out, seek help, or even talk to their loved ones about their concerns for fear of being judged. But when we get hurt and need a bandage, we don't think twice about seeking treatment to get better – it is time to treat our mental health the same way. Nearly 450 million people worldwide are currently living with a mental illness, yet nearly two thirds of people with a known mental illness never seek treatment. Taking care of our mental health is just as important, if not more important than caring for our physical health. Having good mental health hygiene decreases our risk factors for many physical illnesses.
We still have a long way to go, but there have been a number of successful efforts that have raised awareness about the importance of mental health and promoted acceptance, support, prevention, and recovery.
In July of 2020, Pennsylvania released the Trauma-Informed PA Plan to guide the commonwealth in becoming a Trauma-Informed and Healing-Centered State. In honor of Mental Health & Trauma Awareness Month, Governor Wolf's Office of Advocacy and Reform (OAR) is partnering with HEAL PA and a coalition of grassroot organizations to raise awareness and reduce stigma around mental health and trauma.
There is a growing movement across the United States toward becoming healing-centered, while raising awareness for mental health. In these uncertain times Trauma Informed Awareness and Mental Health Awareness are now more crucial than ever. #WeHealUS is a national campaign involving every state. In Pennsylvania, businesses, organizations, associations, agencies, corporations, municipality groups, and advocacy groups are working together to support mental health and trauma awareness and make sure people know they're never alone in their struggles.
It is always okay to not be okay and recognizing that you are not alone in that feeling can lead to feelings of strength and empowerment. The truth is you are never alone and there are always resources and people that can help – please reach out if you need help and encourage others to do the same. We all need help sometimes and we can heal by partnering together to make talking about mental health as stigma-free as talking about a broken leg.