America has recognized May as Mental Health Awareness Month since 1949. In many states across the country, there are walks and events raising awareness for Mental Health Awareness Month. NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) puts forth great efforts to educate and advocate for equal care for the millions suffering from mental illness and they encourage clinicians and associates of those struggling with mental illness to continue to be advocates for change and to inspire views on mental health.
In 2013, California passed a new law that requires the “addition of age-appropriate mental health curriculum to the Education Code.” The law make it clear that all public schools within the state of California need to “revise their Health Framework to include the integration of mental health education for grades K-12.” With this being added to the curriculum, the following topics will be addressed:
- Warning signs.
- Definitions of Common Disorders
- How to obtain mental health services
- How to overcome stigma.
Despite the law going into effect in 2013, the revision of the Health Framework has been postponed twice. The next revision date is slated for the 2015–2016 academic year. But this doesn’t mean schools can’t begin to implement some of these components into the curriculum. Awareness around mental illness and support for mental health is imperative. 60 million people across the country are living with mental illness, and it’s our job to work to eliminate stigma and raise understanding.
Highlighting mental health awareness month is a step in the right direction. It allows those of us working in the mental health fields to be creators of change, and architects of awareness. Jesse Engdahl, MA, RRW, expresses the importance of mental health awareness perfectly: “People struggling with academic problems, career problems, relationship problems, and even physical problems are often suffering from mental health problems. This revelation should be a relief, not a label associated with any shame or stigma.”
NAMI has made their resources available for all:
NAMI has a ton of information on their Youth and Young Adult page and has also developed a social networking community for teens and young adults with mental illness called Strength of Us. If you or someone you love is suffering from mental illness or worried that you may be experiencing symptoms, there are resources for you. Please reach out. Please ask for help. It is better to know what you’re struggling with so you can heal than to suffer in silence.