Mental Health Awareness Month

By Caroline Harroe (Harmless CEO)

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This is an important time for society to reflect on the strides we have made in terms of understanding and discussing mental health. For decades, mental illnesses have been stigmatised, shamed and misunderstood. People have suffered in silence, feeling alone, isolated and unsupported. Fortunately, we have made great strides in recent years in terms of reducing the stigma and shame associated with mental health challenges like depression and anxiety. Today, we see more and more people talking openly about their mental health experiences, seeking help and support and creating pathways for others to do the same. However, there are still mental health conditions or experiences that remain harder to de-stigmatise. So, let’s discuss some of those conditions and experiences and see what work there is still left to do in mental health awareness campaigning.

Conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and personality disorders often carry a lot of stigma with them. People with these conditions are sometimes seen as dangerous or out of control. This has led to a lot of discrimination, fear and misunderstandings around these conditions. As a society, we still have much work to do to reduce stigma and increase understanding. One way to do this is by educating people about what these conditions are, how they affect individuals and what treatments are available.

Another area of concern is the stigma surrounding addiction and substance abuse disorders. Historically, addiction has been seen as a moral failing or a lack of willpower, rather than as a serious illness that requires treatment and support. This has led to a lot of shame and judgment around addiction, which further isolates individuals who are struggling. As a society, we must work to change this perception and realise that addiction is a disease, not a moral failing. People struggling with addiction need compassion, understanding and access to quality treatment, not judgment or shame.

Mental health challenges in the workplace are another area that requires attention. Many employees hesitate to discuss mental health issues with their employers for fear of being stigmatised or losing their job. On the other hand, employers may not know how to support their employees’ mental health or provide the necessary resources. Companies should prioritise mental health by providing benefits, resources and training to create a supportive workplace culture.

Mental health challenges in the LGBTQ+ community are yet another area of concern. Studies show that individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ experience higher rates of anxiety, depression and suicide than their heterosexual peers. This is because members of the LGBTQ+ community often experience discrimination, societal pressure and a lack of support that can lead to mental health challenges. Society should work to create inclusive environments for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities by advocating for equality, acceptance, and support.

Finally, there is much to be done in terms of reducing the stigma around mental health in communities of colour. People of colour have historically faced significant disparities when it comes to mental health. A lack of access to healthcare, cultural barriers and stigma surrounding mental illness have all contributed to these disparities. The mental health community must work to create culturally sensitive and inclusive services, increase access to mental health resources and increase awareness of the importance of mental health in communities of colour.

In conclusion, mental health awareness is critical to reducing the stigma and increasing support for those who struggle with mental illness. It is important to continue to work towards a society that values and prioritises mental health, no matter the demographic.

Here are the top 5 things that people can do to be a productive force in this field:

1) Educate yourself and others about mental health conditions.

2) Support individuals who suffer from mental illness.

3) Work to reduce the stigma — challenge stereotypes and speak out against discrimination.

4) Advocate for better mental health services and resources.

5) Prioritise self-care and self-compassion. Take care of your own mental health and encourage
others to do the same.

Mental health is for all, not just some.