Mental Health Awareness Month began in 1949 to bring to light conditions that affect mental health and reduce the associated stigma. Since its inception, it has provided an opportunity for mental health professionals, such as marriage and family therapists (MFTs), to reflect on and improve their ability to create positive change and enlighten the external perceptions of behavioral health.
Systemic therapy allows us to embrace and promote emotional well-being without negative labeling. MFTs work from the premise that nothing happens in a vacuum. Context and relationships matter when understanding individual problems. We know that multiple factors beyond our control shape our emotional development. Nature and nurture work together, not in isolation from each other. No one chooses depression or anxiety, for example, it happens to them for many external and internal reasons. Connecting the dots for those struggling with mental health issues can reshape thoughts and behaviors toward productive and positive outcomes.
What We Know About Mental Health
The data on mental health is concerning and shows that we need to raise awareness and continue doing so as much as possible. In 2021, the National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI) reported the following stats on mental health in the U.S.:
- 1 in 5S. adults experience mental health concerns each year
- 1 in 20S. adults experience severe mental concerns each year
- 1 in 6S. Youths aged 6-17 experience a mental health condition each year
- 50% of all lifetime mental health concerns begin by age 14, and 75% by age 24
- Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-14
- Anxiety issues affect 40 million adults yearly
These troubling statistics suggest the need for greater attention and resources devoted to mental health. Our emotional wellness needs to be prioritized and treated with as much care as our physical health. We need to address mental health concerns before they become a crisis. Just as we view a healthy diet and exercise as preventative measures for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, we must see therapy as a preventative measure for mental health conditions.
Assumptions and Stigma
It is not always apparent that someone you know is struggling with their mental health. This is in part because some people are good at masking their emotions. At the same time, others may use distractions to avoid facing challenging situations. In addition, many people who appear to be high-functioning experience high anxiety levels. So, we may be wrong in assuming people we know are doing just fine.
It is better to work together to make the stigma associated with mental health a thing of the past. When we designate someone as mentally ill, we perpetuate shame and negativity, which can increase feelings of loneliness and isolation. It may be helpful to reiterate that no one chooses to be anxious or depressed. That is why MFTs deploy a holistic approach to their clients and uncover the broader contexts or the bigger picture from where mental health symptoms emerge.
You Are Not Alone
It is vital to emphasize that you are not alone. Life is complicated and unpredictable. When someone is struggling with mental health issues, it can be helpful to remind them that they are not alone. Loneliness and isolation can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and depression. However, a small gesture can make a big difference for someone struggling to put one foot in front of another. Something as simple as a text to check in can help someone realize there is someone there for them.
If you or someone you know is facing a mental health issue, please don't wait to get help. Our therapist locator provides a comprehensive list of marriage and family therapists across the country. MFTs are trained in psychotherapy and family systems, which allows them to focus on understanding client symptoms in the context of the relational interactions that influence behavior. The problem does not define the client but is a symptom of their system.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): provides information on mental health statistics, clinical trials, and research
Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA): provides information on the prevention, treatment, and symptoms of anxiety, depression, and related conditions
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: provides referrals to support groups and mental health professionals, resources on loss, and suicide prevention information
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline: call 800-273-TALK for free, confidential support available 24/7.⠀