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Mental Health Awareness Month
May 17, 2023
Read Time - 10 minutes
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Prioritizing self-care in the month of May

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Founded in 1949 by the National Association for Mental Health—now known as Mental Health America—to raise awareness and promote education about mental health and mental illness, Mental Health Awareness is a time for Americans to center mental well-being in their daily lives.

Sesame is joining hundreds of organizations across the country to reflect on the ongoing need for mental health care and end the continuing stigma around mental health issues. We’ve already discussed the connection between your mind and your physical health, and things you can do to improve your mental health. This May, we are focused on providing mental health resources and mental health services for everyone. In that spirit, we’ve put together some mental health topics as well as support options you can use to improve your behavioral health and wellness.

Mental Health Statistics

The United States continues to deal with mental health challenges in people of all ages, backgrounds, and identities. Some stats and facts for context:

  • According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), more than 1 in 5 adults live with some form of mental health disorder. That equates to 57.8 million people.

  • Over 50 million adults had a substance use disorder in the last year. 93.5% (over 47 million people) of those individuals went without any sort of treatment.

  • Over 12.1 million adults reported having serious thoughts of suicide.

  • A fact sheet released by the Biden Administration states that suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 10-14 and young adults between the ages of 25-34.

  • Suicide and suicide attempts are most prevalent among Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native (28.1 per 100,000) and Non-Hispanic White populations (17.4 per 100,000).

  • According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in 6 youth between the ages of 6-17 experience some form of mental health condition each year.

  • 1 in 10 adolescents is experiencing depression severe enough to impair their ability to function at school, work, or home. 16.39% of youth experienced a major depressive episode in the last year.

  • 59.8% of youth who have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder do not receive any form of mental health care treatment.

While these numbers are grim, they outline the public health challenges at the root of the mental health crisis in America. There are millions of Americans of all ages and backgrounds dealing with mental health conditions, yet many of them either do not choose to or are unable to seek mental health care.

Mental Health America–the nation’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to mental health advocacy–estimates that there are 350 people for every 1 mental health care provider in the United States. 28% of adults with a mental illness went without the treatment they needed, primarily due to costs. In sum, millions of people need help but don’t get it because of a lack of access to care.

Mental Health Definitions

Mental illness is commonly broken up into two general categories: any mental illness (AMI) and serious mental illness (SMI).

According to the NIMH, any mental illness is defined as: “a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder. AMI can vary in impact, ranging from no impairment to mild, moderate, and even severe impairment…” This definition encompasses serious mental illness as well.

The NIHM defines serious mental illness as: “a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder resulting in serious functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.”

As of 2021, there were about 57.7 million American adults over the age of 18 living with any mental illness. This equates to 22.8% of all American adults. 14.1 million adults (5.5%) are estimated to have a serious mental illness.

Common forms of mental illnesses include:

Depression: Depression, also known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, is a type of mood disorder that negatively affects how you think, behave, and feel. Untreated depression can lead to a range of emotional and physical issues. Depression can be caused by other mental conditions, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Symptoms of depression can make it difficult to carry out day-to-day tasks and maintain personal relationships.

Anxiety: Anxiety is an umbrella term used to describe conditions such as agoraphobia (fear of places or situations that may cause panic), social anxiety, separation anxiety, panic disorder, and more. Each of these disorders is accompanied by different symptoms and complications. People with anxiety disorders experience feelings of worry and fear intensely and persistently.

Bipolar: Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that causes periods of mood swings that range from depression to manic highs. Patients often need help to manage periods of mania, which can be characterized as episodes of a frenzied, hyperactive, or irritated mood. Mania is commonly followed by depressive episodes that can intense feelings of sadness, isolation, hopelessness, and suicidal thoughts.

Schizophrenia: Schizophrenia is a chronic mental disorder that affects an individual’s ability to think, feel, and behave. Individuals who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia may experience symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, illogical thoughts or behaviors, and abnormal movement behavior. Cognition may be affected by this disease, leading to problems with attention, memory, and concentration.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition caused by a deeply upsetting or terrifying event. Symptoms include recurrent distressing memories of the event, nightmares or dreams about the event, and emotional and physical distress caused by these memories. People with PTSD may have a hard time adjusting to daily life after the event.

This is not a list of all forms of mental illness, though these are among the most common.

For more information about mental illness, check out the World Health Organization (WHO) fact sheet.

Mental Health Resources

If you, a family member, or a loved one is dealing with a mental health concern, it can be challenging to figure out where to go. As detailed above, a significant percentage of Americans who deal with mental illness do not get treatment for their condition. Older adults and young people are particularly at risk as care options are not always readily available. So, where should you turn?

First and foremost, if you or someone in your family is exhibiting the signs and symptoms of a mental health disorder, talk to your primary care provider. Many primary care providers can offer tools and strategies to help ease symptoms in the short term while offering a referral to a mental health care provider for more comprehensive care. Psychiatrists, counselors, and therapists are all considered mental health care providers and have advanced training and experience to diagnose and treat a wide range of mental health concerns and issues.

It’s important to note that you don’t just have to see a mental health care provider when you are experiencing a form of mental health issue or disorder. Regular therapy visits can help with stress management and overall mental wellness by helping you understand your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Sesame offers convenient and affordable in-person and video mental health visits with licensed mental health care providers across the country. During these appointments, you can discuss any mental health conditions you may be experiencing or just talk about your general well-being. If appropriate, mental health care providers on Sesame can also prescribe medication to help provide the most comprehensive care possible. When you book a mental health visit through Sesame, you can save up to 60% on care and no insurance is required.

Looking for even more resources? Check out these organizations working to progress our national conversation around mental health:

NAMI: The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers a social media toolkit to end the stigma around mental illness and promote conversation about mental health in the United States. They also have a series of podcasts and webinars to learn more from mental health care experts.

CDC: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a mental health hub that features educational material and tools to get help. In this hub, you can find articles about children’s mental health and resources like crisis lifelines for older adults, abuse victims, veterans, and more.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviors, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. This free suicide prevention network is free and provides 24/7 support for anyone experiencing a suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

Mental health is a vital but often overlooked part of our wellness. Whether you have a mental illness or just need someone to talk to, everyone at Sesame wants you to know help is all around you. We are committed to pushing the conversation around mental health forward and helping offer solutions for those in need. Don’t let May go by without finding a little time for yourself and your thoughts. Even if it’s just a moment to recharge and recenter yourself, awareness is the key to lasting and sustainable mental health.

Fact Sheet: Celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month 2023. US Department of Health and Human Services.
Mental Health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mental Health Awareness Month. National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Adult Data 2022. Mental Health America.
The State of Mental Health in America. Mental Health America.
Mental Illness. National Institute of Mental Health.
Suicide Data and Statistics

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