Mental Health Awareness Month 2022

Matt Engler, Regional Executive Director at Avenues Recovery Center of Louisiana
speaks with WWL about Connecting Medical Health and Substance Abuse

What is Mental Health Awareness Month?

The number of people in America living with some form of mental illness might surprise you. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) , almost 53 million people are affected by it. To put that in stark perspective, that number means that nearly one in five U.S. residents live with mental illness. 

 In light of that very distressing statistic, doing things to increase focus on mental wellness and understanding what each of us can do to put our mindsets in a better and healthier place is probably an excellent idea!  

Enter Mental Health Awareness Month.  

When is Mental Health Awareness Month?

In 1949, Mental Health America (MHA), then known as the National Association for Mental Health, designated May as the month to concentrate on spreading the importance of making mental wellness an important part of life. Since that time,  it has been adopted by almost every organization involved in addressing the wellbeing of  mind and spirit.  

Robert Fezekas, Clinical Director of
Townsend Recovery Center
speaks with WWL Explaining the Connection between Mental Health and Substance Abuse

The realm of substance abuse in particular, is a minefield of mental health concerns.  Co-occurring disorders, also known as dual diagnosis, is all too common for people struggling with addiction. Illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety, among others, have had a known connection to drug and alcohol abuse for a very long time. A very important part of addiction recovery is identifying the areas where a person may be struggling with mental disorders. In the event that someone is suffering from a co-occurring disorder while dealing with addiction, creating a lasting path to recovery without addressing those issues is basically impossible.  

There is your very brief introduction as to why mental health awareness is important, especially in the world of substance abuse.  

Now, let’s ask the most important question.  

Ricky Phillips, DNP at Avenues Recovery Center at Louisiana
speaks with WWL about how addiction begins

 What can we, collectively and each individual alone, to take advantage of this month’s increased focus, and make things better? Not just for us, but for the people around us who we love and deeply care about.  

I hope I am not disappointing you in saying there isn’t one simple answer  or one simple solution. There are a million angels to these problems and a million little steps we can take. Each person is unique, each battle is different, and each situation calls for its specific course of action.  

Does that discourage you?  

It shouldn’t!  

Because there is a key starting point from which we can all make real progress, and it is there that we all should begin. 

Ashley Duncan-Soriana, Alumni Coordinator at Avenues Recovery Center at Louisiana
speaks with WWL about A Powerful Story of Living Addiction Recovery Out Loud

Here is the secret. It starts with ATTITUDE.  

And by that, I mean, changing our attitudes and viewing things a bit differently. Altering our perspectives, even just slightly, can change lives!  

Understanding that mental illness is a disease just like all others is step number one. When we get this, it switches the lens entirely. Guilt is replaced by validation; obsessing over our low self-esteem shifts  toward opening a window into what makes each one of us special. It will give us the courage to meet our challenges head on. The wonder of recognizing  the beauty inside us is the great generator of hope and real growth. And when we know that truth, the dark places inside of us can start to fade, lit up by the wonder and magic of self-discovery.  

That my friends, is mental health awareness in a nutshell. You count, you are special. It is an illness, and an illness can never define you. 

This new attitude is a needle in the hot air balloon of mental health stigma.  Mental Illness will no longer be a commentary on who we are as people. If the struggle is our own, we will be empowered to get screened, to actively seek help, and to find the way forward to be the best version of ourselves. When we see someone in our life who is in a dark place, we will have the sensitivity to reach them in a meaningful way.  

We will understand, we will encourage, and we will uplift.  

We will create trust, find hope, and effect change. 

For ourselves and for those that we love.  

What is the theme of Mental Health Awareness Month 2022?

The chosen theme of Mental Health Awareness Month 2022  is “Back to Basics.”  

So, let’s all start with the most basic awareness of all. Every person is precious and worthy and powerful. Remember that always. Believe that always.  

It is the foundation of every beautiful things we will ever achieve.

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Brooke Abner,

Motivational Coach