Mental Health Awareness Month

2 min read · 3 sections
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, a time dedicated to eradicating stigma, promoting awareness, offering support and resources, fostering public education, advocating for policies that prioritize the well-being of individuals and families affected by mental health disorders, and providing a platform to talk about experiences with mental health.


Mental Health Awareness Month

Founded in 1949 by Mental Health America, Mental Health Awareness Month has come a long way. While society has become more comfortable talking about mental health, individuals still need guidance when it comes to taking care of their own well-being.

Mental Health Disorders

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), which clinicians use to identify and diagnose mental illnesses, contains descriptions, symptoms, and other criteria for establishing the presence and severity of mental disorders.

According to the 2023 State of Mental Health in America, 21% of adults in the United States experience a mental illness. That’s equivalent to more than 50 million Americans, but 55% of them (or 28 million individuals) receive no treatment. Additionally, 15% of those adults experiencing a mental health disorder were diagnosed with a substance use disorder, the clinical term for addiction and outlined in the DSM-5. Yet, 93.5% of those individuals did not receive treatment for it.2

The Changing World, Co-Occurring Disorders, and Solutions for Stress

Mental Health Awareness Month is all about helping individuals learn, act, and advocate in a constantly changing world. Relationships, pressures at work or school, and the uncertainty about the changing world can impact your mental health.

Additionally, a co-occurring disorder, a diagnosis of a substance use disorder and a co-occurring diagnosis of a mental health condition such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), can make life feel overwhelming.

The good news is that you have the power to improve your mental health and well-being. With proper treatment, you learn to manage stress and cope with difficult emotions and challenging situations in a healthy way—without drugs or alcohol.

There are healthy alternatives to using substances as a coping mechanism. These may include:3

  • Exercise. Healthy doses of physical activity can boost your emotional and physical health because it releases endorphins, which can help reduce stress, stabilize your mood, improve your sleep, and raise your self-esteem.
  • Mindfulness meditation. Yoga, meditation, and breath work can be useful practices that encourage self-reflection and putting you more in tune with your mind and body.
  • Spirituality. For some, finding faith or a connection to a higher power can provide them with inner strength and a strong foundation for managing stressors, triggers, and other difficult situations. 12-Step programs offer a community of others, who are also in recovery as well as spiritually-guided tools and coping methods to help individuals live a substance-free life.
  • Art, journaling, or other creative expression. Creative outlets can provide individuals with healthy ways to express themselves. This can be done through dance, painting, sculpting, drawing, writing, or playing a musical instrument, for instance.
  • Connect with others. Talking things out with a therapist, friends, family, mentors, or a network of peers can help you feel less alone.
  • Volunteering. Giving back through charity, mentoring others, or devoting your energy to another positive outlet that helps people or a cause can be helpful.

It’s also important to get plenty of sleep and maintain a balanced diet because a well-rested, healthy body can provide a strong base for a healthy mind.

woman hugging friend because it's Mental Health Awareness Month

Getting Help During Mental Health Awareness Month and Beyond

American Addictions Centers (AAC) provides treatment and aftercare services for individuals who struggle with co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. If you’re currently in a tug-of-war with a substance use disorder or an alcohol use disorder, please call . Speak to one of our compassionate and knowledgeable admissions navigators, who can listen to your story, answer your questions, explain some options, and help you begin the journey to improved mental health and well-being.

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