Understanding the Significance of Mental Health Awareness 

mental health awareness

By: Ben Kimball, MSW, LCSWA

Mental health diagnoses are more prevalent than many realize, affecting millions of individuals worldwide. Unfortunately, stigma surrounding mental health often makes it difficult for individuals to speak openly about their struggles. Mental health awareness is an integral part of fighting stigma and is a critical step towards creating a society that supports and understands those struggling with mental health conditions. 

Mental Health: A Global Concern 

Globally, over 264 million people struggle with depression, and approximately 301 million people struggle with an anxiety diagnosis, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Unfortunately, these statistics are merely a snapshot of a much larger picture, as there are multiple other mental health conditions that individuals live with worldwide. Of course, it’s crucial to acknowledge the prevalence of these diagnoses, as avoidance perpetuates stigma and leaves individuals feeling unseen. In the most severe cases, these disorders can lead to suicide, claiming nearly 800,000 lives annually. 

Stigma Surrounding Mental Health 

Despite the widespread nature of these conditions, mental health diagnoses are often met with misunderstanding and fear, leading to stigmatization. This unfavorable view towards mental health is not only harmful but also discourages individuals from seeking treatment. 

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) categorizes mental health stigma into three categories: 

  1. Public stigma: Negative attitudes others hold about mental illness. 
  1. Self-stigma: Negative attitudes individuals with mental illness harbor about their own condition. 
  1. Institutional stigma: Systemic stigma where agencies limit treatment opportunities for mental illnesses. 

Understanding stigma is vital in addressing mental health struggles and facilitating worldwide conversation that ultimately leads to the improvement of the lives of individuals and communities.  

A Glimpse Into the History of Mental Health Stigma 

The stigmatization of mental health disorders is not a recent development. In the United States, the institutional inpatient care model of the 19th century resulted in unlivable conditions for individuals with mental health conditions. These environments led to the continued stigmatization and isolation of individuals struggling, and perpetuated negative stereotypes. Despite significant improvements in mental health treatment and policy reform over the years, the effects of these outdated practices and beliefs can still be felt. 

The Imperative of Mental Health Awareness 

Raising awareness about mental health is not only about eliminating stigma but also about fostering a greater understanding of these conditions. Increasing the understanding and awareness of mental health struggles will foster worldwide empathy, and allow individuals to feel seen, understood, and supported.  

The Role of Mental Health Services 

While there is much work to be done, reduction in stigma has already encouraged more individuals to seek treatment. Trained mental health professionals and clinicians play a critical role in guiding individuals towards managing their diagnoses and improving their overall well-being.  

Mental Health Awareness Month: A Step Towards Change 

Recognized in May, Mental Health Awareness Month is a significant initiative that aims to educate the public about mental health, promote research and treatment, and reduce the stigma associated with mental health conditions. Created by Mental Health America, this initiative aims to break the silence surrounding mental health and increase access to mental health care for those in need. 

The importance of Mental Health Awareness Month even extends beyond individuals with mental health conditions. It helps everyone recognize the impact of mental health on their lives, promotes understanding of available services, and highlights pathways to advocacy. 

By encouraging open conversations about mental health, this initiative aims to dispel misconceptions, reduce stigma, and encourage those struggling to seek help and find a support network. 

How Can You Contribute? 

While the significance of professional mental health services cannot be overstated, every individual can play a part in raising awareness. Participating in fundraising, community outreach, and awareness events during Mental Health Awareness Month is a great way to start. 

National organizations like Mental Health America (MHA), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and the National Institute of Mental Health host events and fundraisers to promote mental health awareness. 

Truthfully, one of the most impactful things you can do is start a conversation. Educate yourself about mental health issues, look inwardly to confront your own biases, and make the people in your life feel seen and heard. Supporting those in your life who are struggling with mental health can go a long way in spreading the message of awareness and acceptance. 


The importance of mental health awareness cannot be overstated. By raising awareness, reducing the stigma surrounding mental health, and promoting mental health services, we can create a more inclusive and understanding space for those with mental health diagnoses. Ultimately, no one should feel alone. By having these important conversations and participating in global advocacy, we can pave the way towards an equitable, inclusive, and empathetic space for everyone to share.