Mental Health Awareness Month
What is Mental Health Awareness Month
You’ve probably seen somewhere in the past few weeks that May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but what does that mean?
Mental Health Awareness Month is an annual campaign to increase understanding, reduce stigma, and promote awareness about mental health. It aims to educate the public about various mental health conditions, highlight the importance of mental well-being, and provide resources for support and treatment.
Why does the stigma exist?
The American Psychiatric Association says the “stigma often comes from lack of understanding or fear. Inaccurate or misleading media representations of mental illness contribute to both factors. A review of studies on stigma shows that while the public may accept the medical or genetic nature of a mental health disorder and the need for treatment, many people still have a negative view of those with mental illness.”
This is particularly true among men. As a 40-year-old man, I’ve seen men and boys be told to “man up” in the face of emotional struggles far too many times. That approach, rooted in toxic masculinity, has led to many men (and women) to suppress their struggles, often causing even more harm. Hopefully, with initiatives like Mental Health Awareness Month, we can begin disassembling the walls we have built and work toward healthier and more productive responses to our mental health.
How can we overcome the stigma?
One of the most important things about mental health vulnerability. As someone who has had his fair share of struggles with depression and alcohol abuse, I’m not shy about sharing my story in the hopes that it may help someone. A few years ago, I headed down to Nashville for a portrait session with Chad Cochran (cowtownchad) and shared a short version of my story for his mental health series called “I Didn’t Want To Tell You: Normalizing The Conversation Around Mental Health.”
I didn’t want to tell you…
Here are some thought from a few of the participants in the “I Didn’t Want To Tell You” series with links to each of their full stories
John Paul White
Music and Mental Health
Chad’s series focuses on artists and musicians answering the simple question… “How has mental health played a role in your life?” The stories include childhood trauma, bullying, addiction, depression, and more. This begs the question, are creatives more prone to mental health struggles? Too often, I have heard people say that once an artist got sober, their music suffered. Does the best art come from misery? Undoubtedly, some great music has, but artists like Jason Isbell have put out their best work in sobriety. Popular culture often lionizes those who have struggled with addiction and mental health as tortured geniuses. To paraphrase Nick Hornby’s seminal novel, High Fidelity, “What came first, the music or the misery?”
For me, music can be both a trigger and a tool. Some songs can make me sad, but others can pull me out of despair. If you’ve ever listened to our Hi-5: Shuffle episodes of The Hot Mic Podcast, you know that I have a soft spot for sad music. For me, it’s about catharsis. Hearing someone else sing about something similar to my struggle makes me feel that I’m not alone. It often helps me to understand the emotions that I’m going through and gives me a different perspective on whatever situation I find myself in. So, when I’m sad, sad songs lift me up. I know it sounds strange, but it works for me.
Regardless, music and mental health often go hand in hand. So in conjunction with that, I invited Chad Cochran back on our podcast for an episode where we turn the tables and talk about our mental health struggles in more detail. We hope you’ll take a listen and that it will be impactful for you.
The first step is acknowledging that it’s ok to not be ok. The second step is to take action. Here are a few resources that may help. This is not an exhaustive list, but these are good starting points. As always, remember that you are not alone and that help is available. Here’s to a better tomorrow and a better you.