Today brings Mental Health Awareness Month to a close. Of course, for mental health advocates, the mission of spreading awareness and combating the stigma surrounding mental illness will continue long after the calendar pages flip. But in the meantime it is important to look back on what this year’s awareness month brought.
Close to home for me was the local minor league baseball team hosting a mental health awareness night at their stadium. As more venues hold similar events, the ability of mental health advocates to reach a wider audience will continue to grow.
Personally, I continued learning about aspects of mental illness that I wasn’t aware of, and worked to expand this site, something I will continue to do as I’m amazed by the responses I get from readers.
Yet the work is far from done. Everyday I am confronted by views of people online who misunderstand mental illness and feed the stigma surrounding it. As NPR reported in July of last year, it is possible that half of the prison population have undiagnosed or untreated mental health issues, and are often punished for their symptoms. This is just one of the many examples of Lady Justice being blind to the plight of those who struggle in silence, tormented by demons in their own mind. And on a personal level I still struggle to be accepting and forgiving of my bad days, the dark days that cloud my outlook and weigh me down. So yes there is absolutely work to do.
Hopefully, there will come a day where mental health awareness month is celebrated more widely, or better yet where it is unnecessary because mental health advocates have defeated the stigma surrounding these struggles. But as the demons of mental illness so often wreak havoc in the darkness, creating struggles hidden by smiles and silence, it will be a long road before we get there. In the meantime, things like Mental Health Awareness Month offer one more opportunity for mental health advocates to spread their message and move toward that stigma free future.