May is Mental Health Awareness Month – Part 1

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Started in 1949, this is the month when many national and local organizations work to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and educate the public about mental illness.

Over the course of this month, we will be exploring the facts and fallacies of surrounding mental health and illness. We will work to clear up some common misconceptions about mental illness, talk about what you can do to help someone who is living with mental illness, and share some ideas on how you can prioritize your own mental health.

First, however, let’s answer the question:

What is mental health?

This may seem like a question with an easy answer, but just as a person can be physically unhealthy without technically being ill, good mental health requires more than just an absence of mental illness.

The World Health Organization defines mental health as a state of well-being in which individuals can realize their own abilities, cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and make a contribution to their community.

A person’s mental health is influenced by a variety of factors, including socio-economic circumstances, individual attributes, and environmental influences. People can be genetically predisposed to illnesses like depression, schizophrenia, or alcoholism, for example. Sometimes outside influences like the loss of a job or a lack of connection to a community can trigger depression or anxiety.

Just like with physical health, there are ways to both promote healthy mental habits that may prevent problems and treat illnesses if they occur. Learning to prioritize your mental health is important for everyone, whether currently sick or not.

One of the most important things to remember about mental health is that it’s just as important to our well-being as physical health. Unfortunately, there continues to be a stigma surrounding mental illnesses and many people believe they should be able to push themselves through any difficulty or stress that occurs in their life. This just isn’t true. Asking for help shows strength, not weakness. Everyone deserves the opportunity to live the best life they can, which includes living mentally healthy.

Next week, I hope you’ll join us as we talk about some common misconceptions surrounding mental illness.

If you’re struggling with your own mental health right now, please reach out to someone who cares for you, call (607) 737-5369 for 24/7 community mental health crisis service.

Hannah Page
Steele Memorial Library