The month of May has been deemed Mental Health Awareness Month by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. What is this month dedicated to? How has COVID-19 taken a toll on the mental health of people? And how can we remove the stigma surrounding mental health? Read on to find out!
Image is courtesy of the Government of Canada.
What is Mental Health Awareness Month?
Mental Health Awareness Month was first observed during the month of May in 1949 in the United States, and is still held today. Using media, local events and screenings, various health-centered organizations have strived to amplify their initiatives during this month. This year, the National Alliance on Mental Health has designated this year’s theme as “You Are Not Alone,” connecting it to the current COVID-19 pandemic and circling feelings of isolation and holiness people have dealt with due to the continuous lockdown and quarantine measures.
Image is courtesy of Nami.
How has COVID-19 affected people's mental health?
We have a whole article dedicated to this topic that you can read here: https://www.racetoacure.org/post/mental-health-and-covid-19
Essentially, the pandemic has had a major effect on the lives of people of all ages, and stresses and challenges have become amplified amidst the uncertainty caused by this crisis. While social distancing and lockdown measures are necessary in order to curb the spread of the virus, it has also had adverse effects on the mental health of individuals, the CDC states, which include but are not limited to:
Increased feelings of stress
Worsening of existing health problems
Physical reactions (headaches, body pains, skin problems)
Changes in behaviour (appetite, emotions, interests)
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How to cope with stress
During the ongoing health crisis, both with COVID-19 and mental health, it’s important to take care of our own minds and bodies, as well as check in with others.
Here are some tips recommend by the CDC on coping with stress:
Make sure to take breaks and relax (especially from high-intensity or stressful environments): This can look like pretty much anything–reading, watching TV or movies, taking a nap, cooking
Take care of your mind and body: Exercise on a daily basis, eat well-balanced meals, ensure you get enough sleep, and avoid excessive consumption of alcohol or other substances
Connect with others: While we are physically separated, there are many ways to still connect with friends and family, whether it be a phone or Zoom call
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Significance of Mental Health Awareness Month
So what is the significance behind the month of May? NAMI states that as Mental Health Awareness Month, these weeks are (especially) dedicated to an important part of the fight against ending the stigma against mental health: Awareness. This means adequate education regarding what mental health is, why it is very real, and how people can come together in the midst of any crisis to strengthen their bonds and help those experiencing poor mental health. As an individual, we can help raise awareness about mental health by keeping the conversation on this topic going, and reaching out to friends and family to let them know that we are always there for them.
Mental health is definitely a multi faceted issue with many different subtopics that can’t be covered in a single article. See below to check out R2AC’s other articles pertaining to mental health:
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Remember, you are not alone. Help is available if you are experiencing poor mental health, or need someone to talk to. For a full list of contacts, you can use this link: https://mindyourmind.ca/help/where-call.
Article Author: Asima Hudani
Article Editors: Maria Giroux, Sherilyn Wen