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What Is Mental Health Awareness, and Why Is It Important?

Awareness is the first step to well-being. (Image via Freepik/ Kgpargeter)
Awareness is the first step to well-being. (Image via Freepik/ Kgpargeter)

Mental health awareness can help the millions impacted by mental health issues, especially in the United States. According to recent studies, one in five adults have had or currently have symptoms of a mental illness. These numbers show just how prevalent mental illness is.

The purpose of mental health awareness is to show those who are struggling with mental illness that they are not alone, and seeking help can make a huge difference. If we take this approach to mental health every day, many people would benefit.

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What Is Mental Health Awareness?

People sometimes suffer in silence because of misconceptions about mental health and mental fitness, and their ailments go untreated. Mental health awareness is an important societal movement that aims to enhance understanding and access to healthcare.

Destigmatization and psychoeducation are the objectives of awareness. Stigmas related to mental health can frequently be the result of either fear or ignorance. Unfortunately, this confluence might encourage an unfavorable perception of people struggling with mental health concerns to stay quiet and not seek help.

The concept of stigma is more nuanced than an overarching viewpoint. There are three basic types of stigma, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

The first type is public stigma, which relates to the negative perceptions other people have of mental illness. The second, self-stigma, consists of the unfavorable attitudes people with mental illness have regarding their illness.

The third type is institutional stigma. This is a systemic stigma that involves private and government agencies that limit treatment opportunities for mental illnesses. By making individuals aware of mental health and illness, we make changes not only at the individual level but also at a societal level.


Why Is Mental Health Awareness Important?

An increased awareness of mental health can help society work towards eliminating their stigmas, but it can also help in the following ways:

1) Helps understanding of signs and symptoms

Having a diagnosis can be magical at times. Despite the negative connotations attached to the term 'mental health', it's only a shortened term for a group of related symptoms.

A diagnosis can be immensely reassuring, especially with mental health issues that are challenging to identify โ€” and perhaps difficult to uncover โ€” through a test.

That can make patients feel less alone and make getting therapy easier. Try to take note of your symptomsm and understand how they affect your everyday life, relationships, and work.


2) Promotes mental fitness

Awareness breeds fitness and health. (Image via Freepik/Vector)
Awareness breeds fitness and health. (Image via Freepik/Vector)

Many of us have made the mistake of assuming that mental health is only concerned with mental illness. However, it's possible to be mentally fit while still having a mental health disorder. The absence of a mental health condition doesn't necessarily ensure mental fitness.

Expanding our understanding of mental health issues and wellness to incorporate mental fitness is a proactive approach to emotional health, well-being, and cognitive agility. It enables us to live with greater passion, clarity, and purpose. It's crucial to lessen the stigma associated with mental health.


3) Pushes for mental health advocacy

Increased awareness leads to increased mental health advocacy. (Image via Freepik/rawpixel)
Increased awareness leads to increased mental health advocacy. (Image via Freepik/rawpixel)

Increased awareness may result in a stronger push for mental health advocacy. Promoting better awareness of mental health and eliminating stigmas around it is made possible by groups like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and occasions like Mental Health Awareness Month.

Such advocacy seems to be effective. According to research, 87% of Americans believe that having a mental health problem is not a source of shame. According to 86% of those surveyed, people with mental health conditions can recover.

In addition, 81% of respondents to the study said that they'd be either extremely comfortable or somewhat comfortable being friends with someone who has a mental health issue. These favorable responses suggest a more receptive environment for those with mental health concerns.


4) Saves lives

You can help save lives by becoming aware. (Image via Freepik/pch.vector)
You can help save lives by becoming aware. (Image via Freepik/pch.vector)

People with mental health illness are not the only ones who can have a dialogue about mental health.

It affects our mental, physical, social, and emotional health. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't get the treatment they require, as mental health is stigmatized. Some people aren't even aware that treatment is accessible. When these people suffer quietly, they feel isolated and disenfranchised.

According to studies, one of the top three causes of death in the US each year is suicide, and in recent years, that has increased. Although certain groups are noticeably more at risk than others, that's true for all socioeconomic classes, racial groups, and genders.

Each and every suicide is tragic. Suicide has a huge financial cost. In addition, it's a devastating experience for the survivors of the person who died. We never truly know how our actions can impact another person, but if raising awareness can save a life, it's a truly worthwhile endeavor.


Takeaway

As has already been mentioned before, mental health awareness is paramount for a better and healthy society and for holistic well-being of a person.


Janvi Kapur is a counselor with a Master's degree in applied psychology with a specialization in clinical psychology.


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Edited by Bhargav
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