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.
- In any year, 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 5 youth experience a diagnosable mental illness.
- Suicide is more common than homicide in the United States.
- A person with a severe mental health illness is 10 times more likely to be a victim of violent crime.
- The national suicide prevention lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. It’s available toll-free 24/7 every day and is a great resource to keep for yourself or in case someone you know is struggling with suicidal thought.
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!