May is mental health awareness month, and there is a huge need to bring awareness and accessibility to mental health treatment. Mental illness has steadily risen over the past few years and was exaggerated by COVID-19. In 2019, approximately one in five adults in the United States experienced a mental illness. As a result of the pandemic, these numbers have skyrocketed. In January 2021, four out of ten adults in the US reported severe symptoms of anxiety and depression. Additionally, substance misuse as a method of coping has also continued to rise.
These climbing numbers in mental illness pose as a new epidemic in the United States. While the grave adverse effects of COVID-19 are beginning to dwindle due to the vaccine, mental health issues will remain. Moreover, many will experience adjustment issues as they transition back to a world where people meet face-to-face. As I was preparing this article article, my university released an announcement that masks are no longer mandatory for people who are vaccinated; the first day of class in over a year without social distancing or masks was different and there was a notable difference in the way we interacted. Operating virtually for nearly a year and a half has caused interpersonal and psychological damage to many, and the adjustment period will need intervention.
If it’s not glaringly obvious at this point, Truhugs take mental health very seriously, thus the mental health awareness month article. I, the lead blog authors, am a psychology graduate student and licensed mental health professional, so mental health advocacy is embedded into my career. From the beginning, our blog posts have infused mental health research into our rationale for weighted blankets as an intervention. We’ve maintained transparency and have never made unfounded claims. Weighted blankets are but a mere piece of the puzzle that is mental health treatment, and we advocate for wrap-around services to support individuals through challenging times.
Did you know that only 50% of individuals who meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental illness receive treatment? Lack of treatment is due to multiple factors such as embarrassment, limited accessibility, or economic barriers. The perception of mental health has changed throughout time. What was once a taboo subject is not more openly talked about. Despite the increasing awareness, stigmas against mental health are still very apparent and can be seen across social media.
I constantly see memes circulating, suggesting that a simple walk in nature can mitigate depression symptoms. These circulating memes and misinformation perpetuate this misconception about mental health. Furthermore, with these stigmas attached to mental health, those who desperately need treatment may feel too embarrassed to reach out for help.
Those who aren’t ashamed still face challenges. Without going on too much of a rant, our medical system is broken. Even with excellent insurance, often, mental health services are not covered. Did you know many insurances will only cover certain diagnoses? If mental health treatment is covered on the off chance, there is typically a deductible, meaning that a person will need to pay a certain amount out of pocket before insurance will kick in. Paying $100 per session isn’t feasible for most. Another issue is that some mental health professionals don’t accept insurance and charge hundreds of dollars per session. This also limits accessibility.
And some who aren’t embarrassed to seek out help and have the financial means may still be challenged in the sense that they live in an underserved area. There are some rural areas where therapists are far, and few between. Therapists located within the secluded towns have massive caseloads preventing them from seeing clients more than once a month, making it challenging for consistent appointments.
With these barriers, it is essential for an increased awareness of resources. While nothing beats treatment from a trained mental health professional, that’s not always an option. However, we always recommend a licensed mental health provider over self-help methods because they offer tailored treatment and are trained on evidence-based therapeutic approaches. Furthermore, attending therapy holds you more accountable than self-help. If you have read up until this point and are searching for a therapist, we recommend checking out psychology today as a resource. For everyone else, we’ve provided a list of self-help resources.
We must caveat, if you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, then a self-help approach is not appropriate. The national suicide prevention lifeline is 800-273-8255, and someone will answer 24/7. There are free resources for non-life-threatening mental illness or anyone who wants to increase their protective factors as a preventative measure. May is mental health awareness month, and from this article and our social media outreach, we aim to increase awareness, reduce stigma, and improve linkage to resources.
Resources to consider for Mental Health Awareness Month
TherapistAid was designed as a tool for mental health professionals, but anyone can utilize the site’s vast resource database. You can choose the type of resource you’re searching for or narrow down resources by the presenting problem on the homepage. For example, let’s say that you’re struggling with increased stress. By clicking on the stress option, you’ll be redirected to a page with various tools. We enjoy the worksheets, as they can instigate the identification of thought patterns to help promote new perspectives.
Mental Health American has developed a tool kit to help promote mental health amongst anyone. Tools2Thrive contains practical tools that readers can use to build their mental health resiliency.
3. National Institute of Mental Health [NIMH]
The NIMH is a library of vast information regarding mental health. Through this website, you’ll find resources to raise mental health awareness, learn the signs of mental illness, and find research articles on treatments and interventions. NIMH funds a great deal of health-related research, so you can also take part in studies through this website to further progressions of treatment modalities and interventions.
This page on the No Shame on U website is full of resources for various mental health concerns and support resources for those living with someone who struggles with mental health. We encourage you to look through the list and explore options relevant to your situation.
In addition to the resources we’ve linked and advocacy for treatment, you can implement some tools at home. Self-care is crucial because it acts as a protective factor for mental health conditions. To put this metaphorically, think about a candle. A candle with more wax will take longer before it goes out compared to a candle with less wax. Self-care can add back wax to the candle so that there is more time before the flame goes out.
Weighted blankets are lumped into that category of self-care because they have physiological and psychological stress-relieving capabilities. In times like where stress is chronic and highly prevalent, we must recognize that everyone should take mental health seriously. Furthermore, we must spread awareness and advocate the treatment efforts.
Throughout the rest of mental health awareness month, we encourage you to seek out tidbits of information to become more informed and educated about mental illness and its impacts.