May is Mental Health Awareness Month!

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Just like everyone has “health”, everyone has “mental health.” Over the course a person’s lifetime, they may not experience mental illness, but they will likely experience challenges with their mental well-being (i.e., their mental health). Since 1948, the month of May is has become a time to reflect on mental health, fight stigmas and highlight the mental health issues of people across the country.

According to Mental Health America, 18 percent of American adults experience some kind of mental illness. In addition, 9.7 percent of American youth suffer from severe depression, an increase of .5 percent over last year, and statistics show that youth mental health is on the decline.

With 60 percent of adults reporting unmet needs for treatment of mental health, and 60 percent of youth with depression not receiving any treatment at all, it is evident that we need change.

Seventeen of our Well Connected Communities coalitions are working on projects to increase mental health awareness, including working with youth, breaking stigmas, and addressing substance abuse among both youth and adults. In October 2020, the youth of our West Virginia University communities, put together their first ever youth-led Snowflake Conference, where 19 youth came together to discuss issues of mental health awareness among their peers, especially during the pandemic. Their success with this conference has led many of our other communities to explore replicating the effort in their own areas.

Understanding and maintaining mental health is a large part of overall well-being. With the right community and individual supports and tools, life-long health and well-being can be within everyone’s reach.