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.”

Photo: Chad Cochran,

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

Tim Easton
Photo: Chad Cochran,

Tim Easton

Either we open up the door and talk about our realities, no matter if they are present or past or future fears, or there is a potential for darkness to creep on in and slam the door shut. It is much easier to find common ground if you speak up. It is much easier to find help if you ask for it.

John Paul White - Photo: Chad Cochran,

John Paul White

“It’s hard to believe that adequate, competent, and free mental health services are still not available for every citizen. The nearsightedness of many keeps real progress in this area from happening - but I’m truly hopeful we can get closer to realizing that goal. Years of hiding my depression and avoiding the “stigma” of the issues I deal with severely stunted the growth I could’ve achieved. Thankfully I’m in an industry and community that gets it, and supports me trying to find my way without judgement.” - John Paul White

Brian Bruemmer
Photo: Chad Cochran,

Brian Bruemmer

It wasn't until a tragic accident that claimed of a friend and nearly claimed my own life that I was forced to confront my mental health. I fully believe that therapy is the reason I'm still on this side of the dirt. I hate that it took the loss of my friend for me to finally face my demons but I hope that sharing my story means that someone else doesn't have to hit rock bottom before asking for help.

Elizabeth Cook - Photo: Chad Cochran,

Elizabeth Cook

Feelings are scary because showing them makes us vulnerable. And vulnerable used to mean danger. But I don’t see vulnerability in the same way I used to. I see it as badass. I see it as brave and bold. The more we can take those leaps of honesty and overcome the discomfort of the conversations about mental health, on both sides, the better the world we are going to have to live and love in. - Elizabeth Cook

Steve Poltz
Photo: Chad Cochran,


Sometimes you gotta turn on the lights and take out the trash.

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.

Musician, concert photographer, writer, podcast host and founder of The Hot Mic Music Magazine.

Photographer, Podcaster at The Hot Mic / + posts

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