Mental Health Awareness Month 2015: Changing the Way We Think About Mental Health

Cast from shackles which bound them, this bell shall ring out hope for the mentally ill and victory over mental illness.”—inscription on Mental Health America’s Mental Health Bell

During the early days of mental health treatment, the mentally ill were often institutionalized in asylums, where they were restrained with iron chains and shackles. As understanding and treatment improved and new modalities were implemented, this cruel practice ended. Mental Health America had these inhumane shackles melted down and recast into the 300-pound Mental Health Bell, that rings out a sign of hope and healing. To learn more, go to Mental Health America.

The theme for this year's Mental Health Awareness Month is B4Stage4, which encourages us to 'get informed, get screened and get help' before mental illness reaches the serious Stage 4, which often involves loss of jobs and families, inability to undertake daily activities, institutionalization or incarceration.

When people first experience symptoms of diseases like cancer or diabetes, they are encouraged to seek treatment. The warning signs of those diseases are published frequently in numerous sources. Posters bearing the warning signs of heart attack and stroke are visible in many public places, but how many of us are aware of the signs of mental illness?

If we don't ignore the symptoms of other illnesses, why do we wait so long to seek treatment for symptoms of potentially serious mental illness? Mental Health Awareness Month encourages us to change the way we think about mental illness and treat it as any serious illness, with screening and early intervention. The Mental Health Bell also reminds us that the chains of discrimination still bind people with mental illness.

"Although the medical community now approaches depression as a disease, many depressed people still feel a sense of shame and judge themselves as weak or self-indulgent for not being able to "will" themselves out of their sadness. When you're in the throes of depression, it's hard to escape the feeling that you are a failure and that the future is hopeless." Deepak Chopra, from Healing Depression.

Anxiety is another aspect of mental illness that is often misunderstood. For more information on dealing with anxiety read Belleruth's blog post, BR' Tips for Beating Anxiety.

To find guided imagery resources to support mental and emotional health, check out our website.

Celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month by telling us your stories. As always, we love hearing from you. Happy Spring from your friends at Health Journeys.