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May is Mental Health Month: Awareness helps to educate, reduce stigma

Many people suffer from mental health conditions silently and without support, but each May, organizations, like Monarch, and individuals across the United States work to infograph1change that as the nation observes Mental Health Awareness Month. Local awareness events, mental health screenings and other efforts help educate communities and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

National organizations such as Mental Health America and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) launch awareness campaigns, and local agencies, advocates and individuals take part in events to highlight mental health concerns. This year, Monarch staff, people we support, family and friends have participated by donating to and walking in the North Carolina NAMIWalks event, and Monarch has provided free mental health assessments, a community screening of the documentary “Healing Voices,” and more.

Mental Health America is focusing on the theme, “Life With a Mental Illness,” for 2016, calling on individuals to share what life with a mental illness feels like for them. Their words, pictures and videos are being tagged in social media posts (#mentalillnessfeelslike). Responses from those who live with mental illness bring their own words to the forefront rather than relying on clinical descriptions of the disorders.

This month, NAMI continues its mission to fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for equal care for those living with mental illness. Visitors to its website, www.nami.org can sign the “stigma-free pledge” and learn about other ways to help spread awareness.

According to NAMI, one in five Americans will be affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime, and many more are impacted through friends and family. While mental health education should be year-round, observing May as Mental Health Awareness Month serves as a reminder of the importance of knowing the risk factors and symptoms, as well as the array of integrated treatment services available, so that people can be empowered to receive the help they need, when they need it.

“In general, people who seek early treatment for general medical conditions are successful in reducing the duration and severity of symptoms related to any illness. Early awareness, detection and treatment yields the best outcomes for the person. Mental health is no exception,” said Monarch’s Medical Director Dr. Robert McHale, M.D., M.S, a Board Certified Psychiatrist.

Infographic courtesy of Mental Health America.

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