Mental health has become a hot topic since the pandemic began. I think we all can agree that this past year alone has brought on sudden difficult changes, extreme stress, trauma, and new challenges. . According to a national Consumer Reports survey conducted at the end of last year, four out of 10 Americans reported experiencing depression or anxiety due to the pandemic. It has affected the mental health of people of all ages, genders, and ethnicities. Now more than ever it is extremely important to facilitate open conversations regarding mental health challenges. 

May is  Mental Health Awareness Month, aimed at fighting the stigma, providing support, educating the public, and advocating for policies that benefit those with mental illness. Each year, a variety of organizations join this movement, including the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), Mental Health America (MHA), the American Hospital Association (AHA), and so many more. 

I have been reporting on mental health for more than thirty years, and I have certainly expanded my views on it.  While it is improving, there are still some negative stigmas surrounding mental health. Mental health is just as important as our physical health and deserves as much attention. If you broke your leg, would you expect someone to tell you to walk it off or just get over it?  Of course not. You would go get treatment. That is the same with mental health.  It is not something a person can just get over. 

Sometimes the symptoms of a mental health condition are very subtle.  Something we all can do today is educate ourselves by taking a one-day training called Mental Health First Aid. I took the Youth Mental Health First Aid course, and I got so much out of it. It can literally save someone’s life.   Just like a first aid course for physical conditions,  this course teaches us skills to help people with mental health and substance use issues. It is an internationally recognized training,  but it is taught locally online by The Mental Health Association in Atlantic County.  

You are not alone! Remember that everyone is going through something. If we all come together and start conversations about mental health, we will realize that there are others who feel the same as us. There is no shame in reaching out for help when things become difficult, overwhelming, or begin to affect everyday activities.

Vitalii Abakumov