Mental Health Awareness month is May. However, given that more Americans are recognizing the importance of actively improving their mental health, mental health awareness can be every day. COVID-19 has only accelerated the trend towards taking aware of your mental health. In 2020 alone, the National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI) reported that 1 in 5 or 5.9 million American adults experienced mental illness each year; for Americans between the ages of 10-34, suicide was the second leading cause of death. In contrast to even a few years ago, more organic and orchestrated mental health awareness initiatives show the changing times, including: mental health awareness initiatives and wellness allowances at work, the rise of mental health apps like “Headspace” and “Noom,” and the use of social media to discuss formerly taboo topics.
In fact, mental health awareness has become such a top-of-mind topic that up to 86% of companies offer wellness programs or incentives. Companies, like people, have embraced the idea that holistic mental health leads to better innovation, productivity, and creativity at work. Workers have to be happy to be their best. Similarly, workers in their off-time are actively seeking to manage their mental health in the same way they manage physical health concerns with consistent exercise and an active lifestyle.
The forced quarantine, especially during the height of COVID-19, has made Americans more aware of their mental health. The physical and social isolation many Americans faced created the conditions necessary to rethink their lives and priorities. A 2021 health survey showed that 81% of respondents strongly agreed that mental health was as important as physical health, an increase from 68% in 2018. More specifically, about one-third of survey respondents reported that COVID-19 taught them empathy, stress and anxiety coping strategies, and their general interest in giving back. Those trends emphasize one of the underlying values of mental health: connectedness — to yourself and to others.
The rise of social media and many public figures’ outspokenness in regards to mental health has normalized the subject. Celebrities ranging from Justin Bieber to Demi Lovato have talked publicly about their mental health struggles openly. To their many young and adoring fans, hearing their idols discuss dealing with anxiety, loneliness, and stress, makes discussions of the once-sensitive topics easier to tackle. It’s a boon for anyone who struggles with mental health at anypoint in their lives, and reminds Americans from all backgrounds and of all ages, to talk out their problems. Like anything else in life, breaking down mental health issues into manageable blocks, often begins with opening up to a sympathetic ear.