Each May our community recognizes mental health awareness month, a tradition that has existed since 1949 in an effort to shed light on the “normalcy” of mental illness. (1)  

Is it working? Hard to say. Granted we’ve moved away from asylums and lessened the use of seclusion and restraint (still practiced regularly in hospitals and jails), but we no longer perform lobotomies – progress! It still feels like the heavy stormcloud of stigma weighs many of us down daily and discrimination is rampant in hospitals, mental health centers, the criminal justice system, in schools and in the workplace. Suicide is increasingly on the rise and especially among young people. What will it take to overcome the taboo surrounding mental health?

I don’t mean to be pessimistic but I am getting frustrated with the lax attitude towards stigma and discrimination in our society.

The Numbers

  • Only 4% of the population has a severe mental illness (but nationally the majority of our legislators are focus solely on forced treatment and believe recovery services are a waste of money).
  • 25% of people (worldwide) will live with a diagnosable mental health condition in their lifetime (approx. 2/3 will never seek treatment because of the stigma surrounding mental illness). (2)
  • In 2015 suicide was the second leading cause of death for youth and young adults 15-24 yrs and 25-34 yrs (yet “13 Reason’s Why” is the most popular Netflix series right now – instead of making it mandatory to talk about mental health in schools and investing more money toward prevention…. we’re making tv shows sensationalizing teenage suicide).
  • Between 19 and 44% of returning veterans meet criteria for mental health disorders, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, or depressive disorders but only 50% engage in treatment (stigma is even more pervasive among veterans than the general population). (3)

Seems clear to me we still have a huge problem and stigma and discrimination are at the very roots of it. But where is the public outcry? Where are the marches and rallies? Instead we seem to be going in the opposite direction and it’s based on fear and misinformation.

It’s Time to Talk!

It’s time to get serious about addressing the stigma and the ignorance surrounding mental health. We are literally losing people every day (in 2015 there were 44,000 suicide deaths in the U.S. alone) to a treatable, and in some cases preventable, illness. (4)

Let’s use this May’s Mental Health Awareness Month to educate those around us! It’s time to share your story – it’s one of the most effective ways to combat stigma. Click the link below and share your recovery journey with us, we will add it to our “Our Stories” page and share on social media or in a blog. Our goal this month is to feature a different video, story, quote, etc. every day!


That’s one way to get involved and be part of the change, there are many more. We’ll provide you with additional suggestions throughout the month via social media – let’s make 2017 the beginning of the end of stigma.



(1) http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may

(2) http://www.who.int/whr/2001/media_centre/press_release/en/

(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4672863/

(4) https://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/leading_causes_death.html



Why Mental Health Awareness Month?

Amanda Kearney-Smith

I founded the Network as the Executive Director in 2011 and, before that, I was a program director at Mental Health Colorado. My educational background is in Developmental Psychology, but living with bipolar disorder has drawn me to this work. I'm most passionate about protecting the civil rights and dignity of others. In my free time, I love reading, practicing yoga, and spending time with my family here and in Illinois.

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