May is Mental Health Awareness Month

may is mental health awareness month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. While it has become more and more common for people to talk about mental health over the years openly, it wasn’t until the pandemic in 2020 that many employers began prioritizing benefits to help workers take care of themselves in this way. Now, The Mom Project wants to use Mental Health Awareness month as an opportunity to advocate for these benefits and encourage women and moms to seek employment with companies that offer them. 

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). In 2020, one in five adults will experience some kind of mental illness. Due to the tremendous increase in mental health needs resulting from the pandemic, 4.9 million adults in the U.S. could not access the care they needed for their mental health. Due to the significant rise in the need for mental health services, many people could not access mental health care simply because there weren’t enough providers to go around. Still, lack of insurance and or cost of mental health services also played a part in this number, and this is something employers can help.

What is the Significance of Mental Health Awareness Month?

Mental Health affects 20% of U.S. adults and 16.5% of kids between ages 6 to 17. These numbers are shocking as it is. But what’s even more surprising is that they’re likely higher than this because millions of people also have mental illnesses. But haven’t been formally diagnosed, either because they cannot access care or because they feel a stigma in admitting their struggle. 

For generations, mental health was a taboo topic full of shame and embarrassment. However, just because people didn’t outwardly talk about mental health struggles does not mean they weren’t feeling them internally. This attitude toward mental illness left millions of people to suffer alone, even though treatment was available. 

Because of Mental Health Awareness Month, attitudes around mental illness have changed over the years. Still, even though treatment is more widely understood and talked about opening today, millions of people continue to feel shame over their mental health struggles — and that’s why it’s so important to continue to observe things like Mental Health Awareness month. The more we talk about mental health, the more normalized it becomes, and the more people will feel comfortable seeking life-changing treatment. 

Top Mental Health Concerns for Women and Moms

Generally speaking, mental health doesn’t discriminate. It can affect anyone at any given time. However, research has found women are more susceptible to specific diagnoses (but they’re also more likely to seek treatment than men). Additionally, symptoms of several mental illnesses often present differently in men and women, so even if a woman isn’t at an increased risk of a specific diagnosis, the effects may be more difficult for her than a man. 

For women, some of the top mental health concerns include:

  • Depression 
  • Anxiety
  • Prenatal Depression
  • Postpartum Mood Disorders (including depression, anxiety, PTSD, psychosis, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors)
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Eating Disorders (including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and general restrictive eating behaviors)
  • Addictive Behaviors (which can often lead to substance abuse, though more men are diagnosed with substance abuse than women)
  • Suicidal Thoughts and Attempts (though more men die by suicide, more women seem to attempt it than men)
  • Burnout 

Recent research indicates that ADHD may be more prevalent in girls/women than previously thought because symptoms present differently in females than males, often resulting in misdiagnosis. However, as it stands, ADHD is more commonly found in boys/men. 

Employer Mental Health Benefits to Look For

Many factors play into a person developing a mental illness. An employer can offer nothing that will eliminate their employees’ risk of suffering from a mental health condition. However, companies can create a culture that promotes prioritizing mental health and well-being and offers benefits to make it easier for employees to access treatment and take care of themselves when necessary. 

As a job seeker, if working for a mental health-friendly employer is essential to you, here are some benefits and perks to look for: 

  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
  • Robust mental health insurance benefits, either within or separate from the general employee health insurance package (if it makes mental healthcare more accessible/affordable)
  • Company-wide mental health days, unlimited sick days (including mental health), or unlimited PTO 
  • Flexible work schedules and work-life balance
  • Remote work options
  • Wellness perks, like gym memberships 
  • A culture that encourages rest, taking time off, and disconnecting from work
  • Free access to paid mental health apps and services (like Calm)

Taking Care of Your Mental Health

While employee mental health benefits are essential, they will only help you if you take advantage of them. Women need to prioritize their mental health as much as possible because mental illness can spiral and intensify without treatment (whether it’s medical treatment or daily yoga practice). 

Some ways you can take care of your mental health include: 

  • Use your PTO, and not feel ashamed for taking a “sick” day for your mental health
  • Step away from your computer and take a quick walk outside to get some vitamin D 
  • Unplug from work at the end of the day (as often as possible) 
  • Prioritize self-care 
  • Seek counseling/therapy and or medical treatment 
  • Manage stress in a healthy way

If your mental health is currently suffering and you’re unsure where to start, you can talk to your primary care doctor to get help or referrals. Other great resources include the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Office on Women’s Health, and Psychology Today (to find a mental health provider in your area).

Normalize Talking About Mental Health

Mental Health Awareness month is about speaking up and normalizing conversation around mental illness and mental health treatment. This month (and always), we encourage The Mom Project’s community to share your stories and to offer support to those around you who may not know where to start with their journey. Remember, your mental health matters just as much as your physical health. 

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