May is Mental Health Awareness Month

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Mental health affects everyone regardless of culture, race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. 1 in 5 people will be affected by a mental illness in their lifetime. 50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and 37% of those diagnosed with a mental health condition at age 14 or older drop out of school. Adults living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions, and approximately 10.2 million adults have co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. About 26% of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness, and approximately 24% of state prisoners have a recent history of a mental health condition.

We live in a time when much is known about the importance of mental health, the consequences of ignoring it, and what we can do to promote mental wellness. We know that a healthy lifestyle and having access to healthcare can help prevent the onset or worsening of both mental health conditions and chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. And we benefit from the efforts of those working every day to chip away at stigma, provide support, educate the public, and advocate for policies that support people with mental illness and their families.

However, many people with mental illnesses never get the care that they need. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that less than half of all adults living with a mental illness in the United States are receiving mental health services. The rate of suicide–currently the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 10–34—continues to rise. Individuals with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than others, largely due to treatable medical conditions.

There are many ways we can reach out to support others on their path to mental wellness or reach in to nurture ourselves:

1.) Take the Stigma-Free Pledge: The StigmaFree campaign aims to end stigma and create hope for those affected by mental illness. Through powerful words and actions, we can shift the social and systemic barriers for those living with mental health conditions. Click here to take the Pledge and share it with others!

2.) Take time for self-care: Exercise, meditation, spending time with friends and pets, working from home once a week, or simply taking time to enjoy a cup of tea each morning can have a profound impact on our quality of life and ability to recover from illnesses.

3.) Get trained in Mental Health First Aid to learn early signs and symptoms, how to help someone in crisis, and what resources are available. You can learn more at, and if you are in eastern Massachusetts, email our partner Jaime Lederer ( to find out when the next local training will be!

This blog post cites statistics provided by the National Institute of Mental Health.

Kristin King, MPPM

Research and Evaluation Project Manager