Mental Health Matters: May is Mental Health Awareness Month
By Lori Graham, LCSW, Director, Arkansas
Mental Health Awareness month, observed in the United States during the month of May, is an opportunity to acknowledge the importance of mental health care and treatment on overall health and wellness. First recognized in 1949 by the Mental Health America organization, the month long campaign is marked each year by outreach activities and events planned by medical and mental health providers, human services agencies, employers, and advocates. Benchmark Human Services (Benchmark) joins organizations across the nation in raising awareness and working to reduce the social stigma surrounding mental illnesses.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), mental health and substance use disorders are among the top conditions that cause disability. Nearly all of us know someone or have a loved one personally affected by a mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use/abuse, or suicide. With one in five Americans experiencing mental illness, the impact of inadequate care and treatment on families and communities is great. Further, the mental health crisis presented by the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have long-lasting effects as people experienced unprecedented instances of social isolation, fear, loss, and economic challenges.
Maintaining one’s mental health is as essential as caring for one’s physical health. Seeking services when needed is important but can be confusing due to the variety of clinicians who work as mental health professionals. Providers who deliver mental health and substance use services include psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, clinical social workers, psychiatric nurses, certified peer specialists, marriage and family therapists, or members of clergy with specialized training. Types of licensures and certifications vary by state; many require advanced degrees, particularly for diagnosing, prescribing medications, or providing traditional talk therapy. If you are unsure where to start, it is useful to speak with your Primary Care Physician or a General Practice doctor who may offer a referral to a mental health professional. You may also check with your employer’s HR department as many companies, including Benchmark, offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), which provide employees a certain number of mental health visits at a reduced cost or no cost to the employee. The EAP can often assist with finding longer-term mental health services and resources, if needed.
Benchmark supports people with complex needs, including persons diagnosed with mental health disorders, by providing trauma-informed mental health and substance use prevention/treatment services, mobile and telehealth crisis response, intensive service coordination and care management for children and adults, and crisis consultation and training to mental health providers. Mental Health Awareness month reminds us that strong mental health leads to strong overall health and well-being. Find opportunities to practice self-care, fight stigma, and raise awareness by speaking openly about mental health experiences, provide support to friends and family, and advocate for equal and accessible mental health care for all.
If you need suicide or mental health-related crisis support, or are worried about someone else, please call or text 1-800-273-8255 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.