Why Awareness Isn’t Enough

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As a counselor, this is important to me because so many of my clients are ashamed or feel “crazy” because of their mental health diagnosis, so having more awareness to decrease the stigma is a great thing. As I thought about “Mental Health Awareness Month,” though, it led me to thinking of other “Awareness” causes that we get on board with.

Cancer Awareness. Child Abuse Awareness. Autism Awareness. STD Awareness. The list goes on.


I don’t want to give the wrong impression here; I’m all about awareness of serious issues facing society. But I do have some ranting to do. Here goes.

Awareness isn’t enough. Not only is it not enough, in many cases it’s not even helping. Take breast cancer awareness, for example. As for the people I know, every single one is aware of breast cancer. They know it exists. But are they doing monthly breast self-exams? My guess is probably not.

How about child abuse awareness? That seems like a good cause. But again, I think everyone is aware that it exists. The key is to give people resources (like the child abuse hotline number or a list of signs of child abuse) in order to actually make a difference.

I don’t have a problem with awareness campaigns. I just think that they often miss the point. Awareness is good, but action is better.

So, in the case of the Awareness Month at hand, Mental Health Awareness Month, here are some actually useful facts and resources. Awareness is just the first step.


I’d love to hear from you. What do you think about awareness campaigns? And what are you wanting to spread awareness about? Share your cause and some action steps or resources in the comments section below!



  1. Knowing something exists and being aware of it isn’t the same. We know people get cancer, but being aware is a psychological thing. It’s seeing the little signs, the implications. It’s not just knowing people kill themselves, but what it means.

    It’s funny, but do you know that as a counsellor you take a big part in reinforcing the stigma against suicide? I know this sounds accusing, but I come from a community of suicidal people. Mentally ill or not, we realized our bodies means our choice. We can kill ourselves if we want to and no one has the right to ‘prevent’ it.

    The idea that people aren’t allowed to kill themselves is nothing less than oppression, preventing us from fulfilling our wishes and forcing us to use methods that leave a mess to you. Just because you want to live doesn’t mean I have to.


    1. Although I agree that your body is your choice, this does not change my commitment to suicide prevention. Many clients that I see desperately don’t want to have suicidal thought. Others who have attempted suicide are so grateful that somebody didn’t let them complete what you stated was their “right” to kill themselves.

      On your point about awareness and knowing something exists not being the same thing, I agree. I think true awareness would naturally include action, but I believe the “awareness” campaigns that are often put out are not doing an effective job of encouraging action.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


Join the conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s