There have been observances of Mental Health Month each May since 1949 in the United States.
While educational events have been held for more than 70 years, perhaps there has never been a time when people have been more aware of mental health needs than now. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, one in five American adults experienced a mental health condition every year. The expectation by behavioral health experts is that the coronavirus will leave new or worsening cases of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and other mental health diagnoses in its wake.
On the plus side, mental health parity laws, which were passed in 1996 and 2008, have helped foster a growing awareness of the importance of an integrated health approach that encompasses mind, body and spirit ... even if true parity between behavioral and physical health remains elusive in many cases. Still, much of the stigma associated with reaching out to attain and maintain optimal mental health through prevention, therapy and recovery has begun to recede.
During May, a number of organizations offer toolkits and resources for both consumers and providers. A common them in this time of social distancing is to focus on ways to create connections using digital tools and technology.
Mental Health America (MHA) is celebrating its 71st Mental Health Month as the organization that launched the movement. In 2020, MHA's "Tools 2 Thrive" provides a practical toolkit to improve mental health and increase resiliency. The toolkit is available for download at mhanational.org/may.
The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) has launched the "You Are Not Alone" campaign to share the experiences of people affected by mental illness. The goal is to fight stigma, feature stories of inspiration and educate the public. For more information, go to nami.org.
The National Council for Behavioral Health serves as a unifying voice for America's healthcare organizations that deliver mental health and substance abuse services. For May, the organization has developed materials for print and social media campaigns focused on mental health first aid, women's mental health and warning signs of teen mental illness. Resources and downloads are available at thenationalcouncil.org/mental-health-month.
There are numerous other national organizations - including the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, American Association of Suicidology, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Psychiatric Association, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, National Association for Behavioral Healthcare, National Child Traumatic Stress Network, National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery, National Institute of Mental Health, Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, among many others - that offer advocacy, research, policy information, statistics, support and resources for either patients or providers. Additional links to resources are available on our website at NashvilleMedicalNews.com.
Local Help Available
MHA National Board Chair Tom Starling, EdD, hails from the Nashville area where he serves president and CEO of MHA of the MidSouth. With mounting isolation, depression and anxiety, he reminded providers and residents that help is available locally, as well.
"Anyone can text 'TN' to 741741 in order to reach the Crisis Text Line. This will immediately connect you to a trained crisis counselor 24/7. Have you used the 'My Healthcare Home' website? Go to myhchTN.org to navigate to your nearest charitable clinic for mental health, dental care, or primary care. It also provides guidance on prescription discounts. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 800-273-8255. By googling the Lifeline, you could also be connected with a helpful chat feature. The local Mental Health America affiliate also has online, anonymous, evidence-based screenings. At mhamidsouth.org, you can take a screening for depression, anxiety, additions, trauma, and more," Starling said in a statement.