Mental Health Awareness Month 2022
by Karl Azzopardi
May marks the reemergence of sunny days as spring battles the last remaining traces of the cold, dark winter to make way for an ardent summer period. Seems fitting that countries all over the western world dedicate this month to raising awareness about mental health and the many facets of this ever-evolving topic. It's an invitation for us all to take some time to sit with ourselves and look inwards - to question feelings (good and bad) we might shrug off throughout the year, process them and move forward with a clear head.
It's no secret that mental health is still not as highly regarded as its physical counterpart, leaving many unsure of how or what to reflect on exactly. Yet, the Covid-19 pandemic has elevated some awareness of the vital role it plays in our overall well being. So, here is a compilation of the major themes that are being discussed during this year's Mental Health Awareness Month that will hopefully help boost or springboard your mental health journey.
Back to Basics
There's surely no better theme to start with than this one by the originator of Mental Health Awareness Month itself, Mental Health America (MHA).
This year, the leading US mental health organisation is showing its commitment to promoting and supporting mental health by sharing foundational knowledge, aimed at heightening or initiating one's mental awareness and growth.
By going 'Back to Basics', the organisation seeks to provide the public with a solid foundation on which to base their newfound awareness of mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The organisation opens the conversation on why it's important to start thinking about mental health, when to seek professional help and where to look for it, and how to maintain good mental health. It has even compiled a list of mental health-related terms to ease the process of reading through its resources.
These, alongside other materials, are conveniently packed in its 2022 Mental Health Month Toolkit which you can download for free. It serves as the perfect starter pack for anyone who is just beginning to explore the inner workings of this incredible force that is our mind.
Get Real (about how to help)
Last week marked Canada's 71st Mental Health Week where the topic of empathy was put under the spotlight with the title '#GetReal about how to help'.
The most common definition of empathy is the famous expression "stepping into someone else's shoes" which refers to our human capacity to listen to someone and understand where they're coming from without judgement. While this might come easily to some, others may find it more difficult to relate with people who come from a different background to theirs which is the root of most conflicts across history.
Yet, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) believes that the Covid-19 pandemic brought some hope in this regard as the world was faced with a common problem which allowed us to relate even with people from the other side of the globe.
The pandemic also highlighted how empathy is something that can be learnt and the CMHA built on this idea by sharing information on the power of empathy, how to improve and manage one's empathising capacities, and other valuable tips.
This one might hit hard for a great number of us who have experienced loneliness in some way or another these past two years. Whether it's because we had to quarantine, were forced to stay at home, or lost a loved one, the feeling of loneliness was almost unavoidable.
Of course, loneliness has been around since the beginning of time, the pandemic simply elevated our awareness of it and the UK's Mental Health Foundation is using this to address this silent yet potentially fatal state of being. Throughout this week, the foundation has planned a series of events that will tackle the topic of 'Loneliness' and the many forms it comes in.
Loneliness can be felt when you're alone but it can also be felt when you're with the people you consider closest to you even if it might be difficult to accept or comprehend. It's also experienced differently, depending on your background and current circumstances, but it can be tackled together.
These are but some of the ideas that the Mental Health Foundation will address during UK's Mental Health Awareness Week which is supported with helpful materials that offer advice on how to cope, how loneliness manifests in students and more.
Speak Up For Mental Health
Also happening this week is the European Mental Health Week where the theme 'Speak Up For Mental Health' aims to raise awareness about youth's mental health which falls in line with the EU's focus on youth for the year 2022.
Undeniably, a lot of young people suffered a huge toll during the Covid-19 pandemic, being deprived of meeting friends and building connections due to the restrictions imposed on schools and places of recreation at this pivotal point in their life. In fact, the EU estimates that throughout 2020 and 2021, mental health problems among young people (15-24 years old) have doubled.
Throughout this week of youth-focused events, the EU aims to encourage young people to speak up and develop ways to support them immediately rather than when it reaches a state of crisis.
Paying attention to your mental state is not anything to be ashamed of, but rather something to be celebrated. So, congratulate yourself for opening up to it whether you are just starting your own journey or continuing to educate yourself on it and feast on the fruits that emerge from the seeds you're planting.
Some local mental health resources & centres:
Mental Health Clinics:
6. Psychiatric Outpatients at Mater Dei