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Mental health awareness: The importance of conversation

January 19, 2022 - 12 min read

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What is mental health awareness?

How can mental health awareness help?

3 tips to promote mental health awareness

Why is mental health awareness so important?

Additional mental health resources

It's impossible to have a conversation about health and wellness without talking about mental health. In the United States, nearly one in five adults have a mental illness or mental health condition. That's nearly 52 million people.

However, mental health isn't just about having or not having a mental illness. Our well-being is affected by all aspects of our lives, and that, in turn, affects how we experience life, work, and time with our loved ones. Now, the conversation is more critical than ever. In 2021, the prevalent feeling of the year was languishing. BetterUp’s research found that more than 55% of workers weren't mentally ill, but they weren't thriving either.

As the pandemic has brought physical health center stage in an unprecedented way, it's time to look at the other major components of well-being. The conversation around mental health awareness has never been as public, as prevalent, or as important. After all, building awareness is a critical ingredient to learning how to care for your mental health

Learn what mental health awareness is and how it makes a difference in your personal and professional life in this article. 

What is mental health awareness?

So what does mental health awareness mean, and how do you promote it?

Often, because of misconceptions about mental health and mental fitness, people often suffer in silence and their conditions go untreated. Mental health awareness is an important social movement to both improve understanding and increase access to healthcare.

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How can mental health awareness help?

Mental health awareness is critical to promoting mental health treatment and behavioral health. It’s a necessary and foundational conversation for changing to a more proactive model of mental health.

Right now, we only fill our tanks when they’re on “empty.” Developing our awareness helps us start to recognize the signs and symptoms when we’re feeling “off” — just as we do with physical illness.

Here are four important benefits of mental health awareness:

1. Helps you understand your symptoms

Sometimes, there is magic in having a diagnosis. Despite the stigma around the term, it’s simply a shorthand for a collection of symptoms that occur together.

Especially with mental health conditions, which are difficult to pinpoint — and sometimes impossible to find — on a test, a diagnosis can be incredibly validating. It can help people feel less alone and make it easier to find treatment. Pay attention to your symptoms. For example, you might feel like your mental health worsens with social media use

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2. Starts a conversation

Mental health awareness is an ongoing conversation, but up until recently, it's only been had in whispers. But because a common feature of many moods and anxiety disorders is distorted thinking, talking about it can actually be immensely therapeutic. 

Building a support network and speaking with a licensed mental health professional is critical to alleviating symptoms of many mental health conditions.

Unfortunately, stigma creates silence. It also makes it difficult to ask for support at work or in other environments that might be made more challenging by a mental health diagnosis.

3. Better education

It's crucial for caregivers, employers, parents, family members, and loved ones to understand the impact that mental health has on daily life. However, while mental health conditions can make daily life more difficult, they also don't have to prevent you from having a fulfilling and engaging life.

When the people in your life understand and prioritize mental health care, it makes it easier to take the actions you need to do to take care of yourself and thrive.

4. Promotes mental fitness

Many of us have fallen into the trap of thinking of mental health as solely related to mental illness. However, it's possible to have a mental health condition and be mentally fit, and 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, a proactive approach to emotional health, well-being, and cognitive agility. It allows us to live life with more purpose, clarity, and passion. Reducing the stigma around mental health is an important step to embracing mental fitness

3 tips to promote mental health awareness

How can individual people, especially non-clinicians, make a difference in promoting mental health awareness? A big part of it is learning to talk and share about mental health openly.

When we are quiet about mental health and fitness, we allow stigma to continue. That silence makes it harder for people to prioritize their own mental well-being.

Here are several ideas to promote mental health awareness within your community.

Speak up for yourself

How often do you see someone take a mental health day? And how often do you see them being honest about it? Many of us feel like our physical well-being is more important than our mental well-being.

We take a day off when we're sick, but not when we're feeling emotionally drained or exhausted. The next time you take time off, be honest with your team that you're taking the time for your mental well-being.

When you participate in self-advocacy for your mental health, you're empowering others to do the same. You'll likely inspire others to do the same.

Learn more about mental health

Take the time to learn about mental health and mental fitness. But beyond that, learn how to differentiate the two. Learn about common mental health conditions, signs of burnout, and how to take care of yourself when you're experiencing symptoms.

It can be helpful to keep an eye on your own warning signs to know when you're starting to get triggered or overwhelmed. If you find resources that may benefit others, share them with those around you.

Talk to a coach

One of my favorite things about working for BetterUp is that every person here has a coach. Whether I'm talking to a manager, a colleague, someone in another department, or an executive, it's common for us to share stories or insights from our coaching sessions.

At BetterUp, we truly have a culture of personal development and mental fitness. It's perfectly acceptable to take time for the Inner Work® that makes our outer work sustainable and more successful. 

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Why is mental health awareness so important?

Mental health isn't just a conversation for people dealing with mental health disorders. It impacts our social, emotional, physical, and cognitive well-being.

Unfortunately, many people don't receive the treatment that they need because of the stigma associated with mental health. Some don't even realize that treatment is available. When these people suffer quietly, they feel lonely and disenfranchised.  We miss out on their brilliance.

Every year, suicide is one of the top three causes of death in the United States. And it's been on the rise in recent years. This is true for all economic classes, ethnicities, and genders, although some groups are at a markedly higher risk.

Every suicide is a tragedy. Death by suicide comes at a high cost. Not only does it warrant financial losses it’s, more importantly, devastating for the survivors of the person who died.

We never truly know how our actions impact another person, but if raising awareness can save a life, it is a truly worthwhile endeavor. 

Additional mental health resources

You don’t have to do it alone. Organizations and resources are here (and waiting) to help. Lean on the mental health providers below for support — or pass them along to a loved one who might be struggling.

You can also find support groups that might help to connect with people living with shared experiences. For example, some support groups specialize in certain conditions like schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders.

As always, consult your doctor or trained mental health professional as well. It’s important to keep your medical team informed of how you’re feeling. Your overall health and well-being is critically important.

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Published January 19, 2022

Allaya Cooks-Campbell

BetterUp Staff Writer

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