Back to Basics

By Lisa Philippart

Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in May in the United States since May of 1949, and was started by the Mental Health America (MHA) organization. The purpose of Mental Health Awareness Month is to raise awareness and educate the public about mental illnesses, the realities of living with these conditions, and strategies for attaining mental health and wellness. Additionally, Mental Health Awareness Month strives to reduce the stigma (negative attitudes and misconceptions) that surrounds mental illness.

Mental Health America’s 2022 theme is “Back to Basics.” The goal is to provide foundational knowledge about mental health and mental health conditions, and information about what people can do if their mental health is a cause for concern.

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behavior could be affected. Many factors contribute to mental health problems including biological factors (genes or brain chemistry,) life experiences (trauma or abuse,) and family history of mental health problems.

Not sure if you or someone you know is living with mental health problems? Experiencing one of more of the following feelings or behaviors can be an early warning sign of a problem:

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little
  • Pulling away from people and usual activities
  • Having low or no energy
  • Feeling numb or like nothing matters
  • Having unexplained aches or pains
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
  • Yelling or fighting with family or friends
  • Excess use of alcohol or addictive substances
  • Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
  • Having persistent thoughts or memories that you can’t get out of your head
  • Hearing voices or seeing things that others don’t hear or see
  • Thinking of harming yourself or others
  • Inability to perform activities of daily living

Positive mental health allows people to realize their full potential, while coping with the stresses of daily life. A healthy mental status lets you work productively and make meaningful contributions to your community. If you are looking for ways to improve or maintain positive mental health, try connecting with others, and make the effort to stay positive in your attitude and overall outlook of life. Get physically active and make sure you are getting enough sleep. Make time to volunteer, helping others in the community. And learn to develop self-care strategies and effective coping skills. Finally, do not hesitate to seek professional help if you need it.

I invite you or your organization to join me in spreading the word that mental health is something that everyone should care about, by going to the Mental Health America website: Once there, you can receive your free “Back to Basics” toolkit materials and conducting awareness activities.

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