Every May, Mental Health Month raises awareness of the stigmas and personal stories surrounding mental health, as well as the latest research and advocacy in this field.
Anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental health conditions, and they deserve their own form of recognition. While there isn’t an official Anxiety Awareness Month, every month – and truly, every day – is an opportunity to have more conversations about anxiety, as well as other mental illnesses that affect millions of people.
If you’re looking for ways to honor Mental Health Month and raise awareness of anxiety disorders, read on. We’ll cover the history and purpose of these events, followed by actionable ways to get involved in your community, support loved ones with anxiety, and take care of your own mental health.
Anxiety Awareness Is A Year-Round Cause
Therapy Can Be A Part Of Your Health Journey
How Common Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses: globally, an estimated 275 million people live with from anxiety disorders, according to the World Economic Forum. This translates to anywhere from 2.5%-6.5% of the population per country in the world. Given its prevalence, anxiety is a key point of discussion and concern among mental health professionals during Mental Health Month, but also throughout the entire year.
While many people experience anxiety, a significant portion live their lives without ever seeking treatment. The Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA) estimates that only 36.9% of people with anxiety disorders seek treatment. And across all people in the U.S. with clinical-level mental illnesses, almost half (45%) don’t seek professional help, based on recent findings by the Mental Health Million Project.
Even as anxiety and related topics become more common in everyday conversations, many people remain hesitant to open up about mental health struggles and seek the help they deserve. Given these trends and statistics, the need for mental health advocacy and anxiety awareness is greater than ever, especially as communities recover from the pandemic and other global challenges.
The History Of Mental Health Awareness Months
In the U.S., there isn’t an “official” month for anxiety awareness. However, there are several national organizations that set aside specific weeks – and sometimes, entire months – to raise awareness of various mental illnesses, including anxiety disorders.
Mental Health Month
One of the most well-known events is Mental Health Month, which is celebrated throughout May across the U.S. and organized by Mental Health America (MHA). Since 1949, MHA and its partners have collaborated every May to provide tools and facilitate critical conversations about mental health.
Stress Awareness Month
A month beforehand, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recognizes April as Stress Awareness Month in the U.S. “Stress” is a broad concept, but can include your daily stressors – like your job, a tough commute, or a tense relationship – as well as anxiety disorders and other chronic sources of stress. Throughout April, the NIH and other organizations provide stress-management tips for people of all backgrounds, with a recent focus on resources for work-related burnout.
Other Campaigns For Mental Health Awareness
Of course, mental health awareness happens daily and globally: not just in the U.S.! Other notable weeks and days and weeks for mental health awareness include:
World Mental Health Day on October 10th, recognized by the World Health Organization.
Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, which spotlights a specific mental illness. In 2023, the theme of the week is “anxiety,” with activities and events spanning from May 15th-21st.
OCD Awareness Week, which usually occurs during October and raises awareness of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a type of anxiety disorder.(Video) 5 signs of social anxiety and what to do about it...
National Counseling Awareness Month, celebrated every April.
Above all, there’s no right or wrong way to raise awareness of mental health concerns. You can post mental health statistics and resource via social media, talk about these causes in-person with loved ones, oradvocate for mental health through the legislative system. Whatever action you take, make sure it feels meaningful and sustainable for you.
How Can I Honor Anxiety Awareness Month?
Regardless of your location in the world or the time of year, there are numerous opportunities to raise awareness of anxiety and related conditions.
We’ve rounded up five creative, accessible ways for you to support mental health awareness in your community, and to honor the widespread impact of anxiety on our daily lives.
1. Walk For Mental Health
Several U.S.-based and national organizations schedule walks or runs to fundraise for a specific mental health concern. For example, the National Alliance on Mental Health organizes a series of walks throughout the U.S. in the spring and the fall, all unified by the theme #Together4MH. These events offer a sense of solidarity with other walkers, as well as a chance to donate to mental health organizations.
You may find smaller runs or walks in your local community that raise awareness of anxiety disorders or other health conditions. Ask a neighbor, a mental health professional, or even an online neighborhood forum for suggestions!
2. Learn More About Anxiety Disorders
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or supporting a loved one with anxiety, simply learning more about anxiety is a powerful tool. You can read more about anxiety disorders online: as a starting place, check out the BetterHelp advice column on anxiety. For more personalized suggestions, you can also ask your physician or mental health care provider.
Sometimes, we learn the most from listening to the stories and insights of other people. If you’d like to learn more about anxiety in a social setting, consider joining an in-person or online support group for anxiety disorders. In addition to helping you learn more about anxiety, these groups also provide opportunities to make meaningful relationships and unexpected connections.
3. Recommit To Your Self-Care Plan
For many people, self-care is a yearlong commitment. And sometimes, it can take a lifetime of time, trial, and error to figure out self-care activities that work best for you.
If you’re struggling to commit to a solid routine, consider taking a step back during Stress Awareness Month, Mental Health Month, or another themed event to reevaluate your self-care routine. In addition to supporting your own mental health, regular self-care can restore the energy you need to show support for your friends and loved ones.
While self-care looks different for everyone, some tried-and-true activities include:
Spending time with a furry friend
Journaling about achievements, areas of gratitude, and goals for growth
Playing a favorite sport or another physical activity
Taking a break from social media
These represent just a handful of self-care activities that can reduce anxiety while reconnecting you to yourself, other people, and your goals.
4. Participate In A Fundraiser Event
Throughout Mental Health Month and other themed events, many mental health organizations host fundraisers to gather donations for their ongoing advocacy work.
Some of these events may take place online, while others unfold in face-to-face settings. Learn how to get involved at the MHA website, where the organizers of Mental Health Month release updated event information every year.
MHA and other organizations recognize that not everyone has the funds to donate to their causes, but you can still help by donating your time! Find volunteer opportunities in your community through the MHA affiliate program; or, go the old-fashioned route and ask a friend or neighbor for local suggestions.
5. Connect With A Therapist
One of the primary goals of awareness events is to illuminate the importance of therapy for treating anxiety disorders and other conditions. For some people, starting therapy is the most immediate and personal way to raise awareness.
Manage Your Anxiety With Online Therapy
Whether you’re seeking professional support for anxiety or another condition, online therapy can help. In the beginning of this journey, some people prefer face-to-face sessions, but online therapy tends to make quality mental health care more accessible and affordable. Platforms like BetterHelp connect patients to board-certified therapists within 48 hours, based on your responses to a brief questionnaire. From there, you can schedule sessions at a time and place that works best for your busy schedule.
Psychologists continue to study the many benefits of online therapy, but current research is promising. In a 2019 review of internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy (iCBT), researchers analyzed 166 studies and concluded that iCBT works and can be just as effective as face-to-face therapy for treating anxiety and mood disorders in adults.
In their review, the researchers included social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobias, posttraumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and found that iCBT effectively improved symptoms across all diagnoses. While anxiety comes in many forms, this research shows that online therapy can be a flexible, accessible, and compassionate treatment for a wide range of concerns.
Anxiety Awareness Is A Year-Round Cause Therapy Can Be A Part Of Your Health Journey
Anxiety Awareness Is A Year-Round Cause
Therapy Can Be A Part Of Your Health Journey
Each awareness month is a reminder to slow down, reflect, and consider how you can raise awareness of anxiety in your community. Fundamentally, this work begins by taking care of your own mental health, so that you’ll have the energy reserves (and personal wisdom!) to invest in your community.
This work starts small, and it doesn’t have to be monumental. You can take the first step by assessing your self-care plan, learning more about anxiety disorders online, and scheduling that long-awaited appointment with a licensed therapist.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is There A Depression Awareness Day?
Though there may not be a widely celebrated, exclusively focused Depression Awareness Day, the first week of May is considered Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week (as part of Mental Illness Awareness Week) in The United States. This week is dedicated to spreading information about anxiety disorders and depression and how they can impact our lives.
What Is National Mental Health Month?
According to the American Hospital Association, May is considered National Mental Health Month. The goal of this month is, of course, to spread information and help battle the stigma that still surrounds a variety of mental health issues.
National Mental Health Month encompasses many mental health disorders: anxiety and depression, social anxiety disorders, substance abuse, obsessive compulsive disorder OCD, and more. The activities and efforts that occur throughout mental health month may include specific awareness days, career development advice, overdose awareness, etc. They all aim to inform and support.
There’s no shortage of public efforts to promote understanding about mental illnesses and their consequences. For instance, National Recovery Month focuses on supporting those recovering from a variety of disorders in a healthy and sustainable manner.
Another great example is National Suicide Prevention Month, which is, as the name implies, more focused on being a prevention month. In this case, a prevention month is dedicated to helping the public understand the symptoms of mental illnesses, how they can escalate, and how to intervene.
The importance of a prevention month, recovery month, or awareness month can’t be overstated. One of the biggest obstacles individuals with mental health issues face is getting others in the world to understand what they’re going through.
So, during the next prevention month or recovery month you encounter, you might find it useful to take some time to learn about the struggles of others. It may provide insight into your own mental health issues, but even if it doesn’t, you’ll be well equipped to support others in your life.
WhatIs The Theme For Mental Health Awareness 2020?
Whether you experience depression or anxiety or any other mental illness, Mental Health Awareness Week is for you. In 2020, October 4-10 was classified as a mental awareness week in the U.S. specifically dedicated to informing the public about mental illness and how to help those who struggle with it.
2020’s theme, “What People With Mental Illness Want You to Know,” has specifically focused on the reality of living with mental health disorders. There is still a lot of stigma and misunderstanding surrounding all sorts of mental health disorders (like eating disorders, substance abuse, depression, and anxiety, among others), unfortunately, which is why it’s important to elevate and celebrate the voices and efforts of those dealing with these challenges.
Of course, these sorts of efforts are meant to raise awareness about what it’s like to live with mental illness. The life events and daily routines of those with mental illness can be much different than some may imagine. Public awareness surrounding what it means to be mentally ill still has a long way to go.
Many individuals, even older adults, still live and deal with mental illnesses without realizing it. However, dealing with untreated mental illnesses can be detrimental to not just your own health but also others’ health and emotions.
Those interested in participating in future mental health awareness campaigns or efforts should feel free to check out the resources linked above!
WhatIs The Theme For World Mental Health Day 2020?
October 10, 2020, was the year’s annual World Mental Health Day, as organized by the Pan American Health Organization, and was themed based on improving investments in mental health. World Mental Health Day has the same goal as many of the prevention months discussed above: spread awareness, provide support and change lives for the better.
The past year’s theme (“Move for mental health: Let’s invest!”) was meant to ensure that those with mental illnesses have the resources they need; it also served to educate the general public about what living with a mental illness is like.
World Mental Health Day is an opportunity to support those who live with mental illness in any way that we can - through information, resources, healthcare, career development, etc. - and learn how to be good support systems.
This day encompasses all mental illnesses, not just depression and anxiety (which arguably get more public recognition and acceptance than some other disorders). An important goal is to make mental illnesses seem like the real, intense life challenges that they are, but also to give the world the tools to tackle them head-on.
Is Anxiety A Mental Illness?
Many of us are familiar with anxiety disorders as a concept, but not everyone is aware of just how debilitating and life-altering dealing with anxiety can be. Both anxiety and depression can cause similar levels of disruption in daily life, lead to strained relationships, and, if left untreated, worsen over time.
Anxiety disorders do indeed count as mental illnesses. The difference between normal, expected anxiety (getting stressed about a big performance, for example) and an anxiety disorder is stark; anxiety disorders cause chronic, hard to control periods of intense anxiety and sometimes even panic attacks.
The symptoms of anxiety can vary from person to person (and can also depend on the severity of the mental illness itself), but generally speaking, those with anxiety experience feelings of dread or unease, have a hard time removing themselves from worry and may experience physical symptoms as well.
Those with mental illnesses, especially left untreated, can be more prone to a variety of consequences like substance abuse, difficulty in relationships or in the workplace, and more. The first step to confronting anxiety is understanding anxiety. That’s part of why the public acknowledgment of what it’s like to live with this disorder is so crucial.
WhatIs The Symbol For Mental Illness?
There isn’t necessarily a universally accepted symbol for mental health disorders; it really depends on who you ask. Oftentimes, natural symbols like butterflies or other animals are used to represent not just mental illness but also resilience and the human spirit.
There are also some symbols specific to certain illnesses or efforts to combat them. Depression and anxiety, for example, may find the semicolon to be relatable and powerful. Whatever symbol you identify with is valid; if it brings you peace and inspires change, then it’s definitely worth hanging on to.
What Are The 5 Signs Of Mental Illness?
All mental health disorders have their own unique symptoms to look out for, so it can be difficult to give a generic list of signs of mental illness. Fortunately, though, there are some consistent and common symptoms of mental distress that you can look out for.
They might include:
- Excessive worry, fear, or anxiety, even when there’s no clear, direct cause
- Isolation or withdrawal from others
- Substance abuse, especially to compensate for emotions
- Changes in eating: this can include eating more than usual, less than usual, avoiding food, sudden weight loss, etc.
- Mood changes: can include mood swings, irritability, sadness, etc.
Those with mental illnesses deal with symptoms that interfere with their daily lives. Mental illnesses like depression and anxiety (in addition to others) can be just as limiting as physical illnesses can be.
Mental illness can make it hard to keep up a job, seek out career development, form meaningful relationships, and more. It’s definitely something to take seriously, so if you notice yourself or someone you love developing the signs of a mental illness, it’s crucial to take action.
The first step is to see a doctor or other healthcare professional in order to discuss your symptoms and, if necessary, receive a diagnosis. Unlike general medical advice, diagnosis information can be used to develop a treatment plan specific to you.
Another key step is to find a therapist; you can find them in person (at somewhere like a behavioral health center) or do it right from the convenience of your own home via the internet. No matter what, though, it’s important to take action. Untreated mental illnesses often evolve into something worse that’s harder to control.
WhatIs The Symbol For Mental Health?
As is the case for symbols relating to mental illness, there isn’t necessarily one symbol associated with mental health or mental wellness.
Many individuals find symbols that remind them of strength to be best when trying to work through their mental health issues; anything that reminds you of peace and inspires you to be your best self can be a symbol of your mental health!