Mental Health Awareness Month (also referred to as “Mental Health Month”) has been observed in May in the United States since 1949, reaching millions of people in the United States through the media, local events, and screenings.
Mental Health Awareness Month doesn’t just help educate the public about the truths and myths surrounding mental illness… or what the warning signs of suicide are…or how the cruel sting of stigma keeps many from getting treatment that can be life changing. Mental Health Awareness Month also promotes resources for those who are struggling with mental illness or love someone with a disorder. Such outreach offers support, healing, information and empowerment.
Mental health is a state of successful performance of mental function, resulting in productive activities, fulfilling relationships with other people, and the ability to adapt to change and to cope with challenges. Mental health is essential to personal well-being, family and interpersonal relationships, and the ability to contribute to community or society.
Mental disorders are health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, and/or behavior that are associated with distress and/or impaired functioning. Mental disorders contribute to a host of problems that may include disability, pain, or death. Mental illness is the term that refers collectively to all diagnosable mental disorders.
Mental disorders are among the most common causes of disability. The resulting disease burden of mental illness is among the highest of all diseases. In any given year, an estimated 18.1% (43.6 million) of U.S. adults ages 18 years or older suffered from any mental illness and 4.2% (9.8 million) suffered from a seriously debilitating mental illness. Neuropsychiatric disorders are the leading cause of disability in the United States, accounting for 18.7% of all years of life lost to disability and premature mortality. Moreover, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
Mental health and physical health are closely connected. Mental health plays a major role in people’s ability to maintain good physical health. Mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, affect people’s ability to participate in health-promoting behaviors. In turn, problems with physical health, such as chronic diseases, can have a serious impact on mental health and decrease a person’s ability to participate in treatment and recovery.
The existing model for understanding mental health and mental disorders emphasizes the interaction of social, environmental, and genetic factors throughout the lifespan.
In behavioral health, researchers identify:
The major areas of progress include evidence that:
US Burden of Disease Collaborators. The state of US health, 1990-2010: burden of diseases, injuries, and risk factors. JAMA, 310(6): 591-608, 2013.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIP). Web-based injury statistics query and reporting system
National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). NIMH strategic plan (revised 2008) [Internet]. Bethesda, MD: NIMH; 2008 [cited 2010 May 6].
Lando J, Marshall Williams S, Sturgis S, et al. A logic model for the integration of mental health into chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Prev Chronic Dis. 2006 April;3(2):A61.
National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, Committee on the Prevention of Mental Disorders and Substance Abuse Among Children, Youth, and Young Adults. Preventing mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders among young people: Progress and possibilities [Internet]. O’Connell ME, Boat T, Warner KE, editors. Washington: National Academies Press; 2009. p. 562.
National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, Committee on the Prevention of Mental Disorders and Substance Abuse Among Children, Youth, and Young Adults. Preventing mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders among young people: Progress and possibilities [Internet]. O’Connell ME, Boat T, Warner KE, editors. Washington: National Academies Press; 2009. p. 18.
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