Self-care is about caring what happens to you. It means doing something that is creative, fun or good for you. In other words, purposefully making your needs a priority. Self-care may mean exercising and eating well to maintain physical fitness and good mental health. It can also mean spoiling yourself a bit—something as simple as indulging in a piece of your favorite candy or playing the guitar for an hour. Anything that helps you be you and stay you is considered self-care.
Mental Health Awareness Month was started in the United States in 1949 by the Mental Health America Organization to shine a light on the importance of mental health and wellness. Each year in the month of May, advocates and activists across the country participate in activities to increase awareness, educate the public, and give a voice to individuals who have mental health challenges.
Why is it so important to bring mental health to the forefront? 1 in 5 Americans experience mental illness and nearly 1 in every 25 individuals live with a serious mental illness in the United States. One of the most vital reasons we talk about mental health is because mental illnesses touch the lives of just about every single American – whether they themselves are experiencing mental health symptoms or they have loved ones who do.
Stigma is when a person is misunderstood, shamed or discriminated against due to things that are out of their control. This is something that many people with mental health challenges face on a day-to-day basis. For people with mental health challenges, sometimes stigma comes in the form of mocking and cruelty. Other times it is subtler: family and friends misunderstanding you, avoiding you, shaming you and blaming you for your challenges. Unfortunately, our society sees people with mental health challenges as strange, lazy, or even violent.
Because of all the negative beliefs surrounding mental illnesses, we begin to internalize those feelings – believing that they are true. We get frustrated, blame ourselves, or try to hide the issues that we face. This often takes an even bigger toll on our mental health. But there are things that you can do to change the way that you think of yourself and learn to speak up to those who lack understanding and awareness.