At its core, Mental Health Awareness Month is a time for people to learn more about mental health conditions and, ideally, seek out help for them. Mental health charities all over the country plan events, awareness rallies, and fundraisers. Media outlets run stories discussing the importance of mental health care and its role in our society. Social media feeds have memes, quotes, and generally positive information about mental illness. While the conversation is still mostly a quiet one – there is a definite conversation. What could possibly be the downside of that?
Mental Health Awareness Month serves as a reminder of just how much work we have ahead of us. Seeing how much farther we need to go to effect real, lasting change is disheartening. Every time someone thanks me, or an audience applauds, I get caught up in the moment. I feel like we are there, that the fight is over and we have won! But needing to set aside a specific week or month to raise awareness of something is evidence that, in general, most people aren’t paying attention.
Having a month dedicated to your cause seems like a great thing, and in so many ways, it is. However, one of the qualifications of having a month to make people aware of your cause is that people aren’t already aware of it. It is a bit like feeding the homeless on Christmas and Thanksgiving, but not taking into consideration that homeless folks need to eat every day.
People Aren’t Just Sick During Mental Health Awareness Month
People aren’t just sick during Mental Health Awareness month. People don’t need love, understanding, hope, and compassion during one month only. That is a daily need and one that everyone deserves.
We need to be aware of mental health and mental illness concerns every day. We don’t need a mental health month; we need mental health every single day. What we need is a society aware of mental health. Not just sometimes, not just in May, and not just when a crisis occurs.
If we could get our society to collectively raise the level of tolerance and understanding of these invisible and misunderstood illnesses, imagine how much better off we all would be.
This is the biggest downside to Mental Health Awareness Month. It shows us what could be – what should be. All of the positive stories, conversations, media coverage, and so forth will largely disappear on June 1. We will be back to mostly negative portrayals and business as usual. All of the hope, understanding, and positive messages will dry up.
Perhaps the biggest downside to Mental Health Awareness Month is that it ends.