Mental Health Awareness Month

May 2021

Every year millions of Americans face living with a mental illness. During May, HIPRC joins the national movement to raise awareness about mental health.

Photo by Emmanuel Olguin

What is mental health?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

What is mental illness?

Mental illnesses are conditions that affect a person’s thinking, feeling, mood or behavior, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. Such conditions may be occasional or long-lasting (chronic) and affect someone’s ability to relate to others and function each day.

Mental health vs. mental illness

Although the terms are often used interchangeably, poor mental health and mental illness are not the same things. A person can experience poor mental health and not be diagnosed with a mental illness. Likewise, a person diagnosed with a mental illness can experience periods of physical, mental, and social well-being.

Source: Centers for Disease Control

How common are mental illnesses?

Mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States.

  • More than 50% will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime.
  • 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year.
  • 1 in 5 children, either currently or at some point during their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental illness.
  • 1 in 25 Americans lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.

Source: Centers for Disease Control

Mental Health Check-In

Make the commitment to check-in with your family, friends, colleagues, or loved ones.

Making it a point to check in on kids’ daily mental health gives them a window of opportunity to ask for help if or when they need it.

To start a conversation:

  1. Set aside time to talk. It is recommended to try for 15 minutes or longer. Get rid of distractions. This time is just about checking-in. Avoid phones, tablets, or television.
  2. Ask open-ended questions. Start a discussion by asking “What went well today?” and “What could have gone better?” Try to make these conversations part of your daily routine, either at dinnertime or just before kids go to bed.
  3. Listen and validate. Let them express their ideas fully before you respond. If your child expresses feelings of sadness or worry, resist the urge to “fix” the problem immediately. Instead, let them know that it’s okay – and even understandable – to feel this way right now.
  4. Come up with solutions together. Help them come up with ideas for how to make the next day better or identify someone who can help, like a therapist, doctor, or pastor. Help kids focus on what they can control, which can help them better handle stress and anxiety by helping them identify aspects of life they have influence over, while acknowledging there are a lot of thing they don’t have control of now.
  5. Schedule time for your next check-in. Be sure to create a routine for check-ins, whether it’s daily or weekly.
  6. And finally, provide reassurance that life will eventually get back to normal.
  • Percent of adults aged 18 and over with regular feelings of worry, nervousness, or anxiety: 11.2%
  • Percent of adults aged 18 and over with regular feelings of depression: 4.7%

Source: Early Release of Selected Estimates Based on Data From the 2019 National Health Interview Survey

  • Number of visits to physician offices with mental, behavioral and neurodevelopmental  disorders as the primary diagnosis: 56.8 million

Source: National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2016 National Summary Tables, table 14

  • Number of visits to emergency departments with mental disorders, behavioral, and neurodevelopmental as the primary diagnosis: 4.9 million

Source: 2018 NHAMCS Public Use File

  • Number of suicide deaths: 47,511
  • Suicide deaths per 100,000 population: 14.5

Source: National Vital Statistics System – Mortality Data (2019) via CDC WONDER

Mental Health Resources

Resources for youth, educators and parents.

  • Forefront is changing the way we talk – and what we do – about suicide in Washington, particularly on campuses and in K-12 schools.
  • Youth Suicide Prevention Program – Tools, curriculum ,training, information, and data for youth, parents, LGBTQ, and teachers.
  • The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.
  • National Child Traumatic Stress Network – Helping children understand trauma.
  • The Jed Foundation – Suicide prevention resources for college and university campuses, including campus faculty and staff, students and parents.

Additional resources:

  • MentalHealth.gov  MentalHealth.gov provides one-stop access to U.S. government mental health information.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the Federal agency charged with improving the quality and availability of prevention, treatment, and rehabilitative services to reduce illness, death, disability, and cost to society resulting from substance abuse and mental illnesses. This page also provides information on suicide prevention.
  • World Health Organization’s Mental Health Action Plan The World Health Organization’s comprehensive mental health action plan.
  • National Institute of Mental HealthExternalThe National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is one of 27 components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Federal government’s principal biomedical and behavioral research agency. NIMH’s mission is to reduce the burden of mental illness and behavioral disorders through research on mind, brain, and behavior.
  • National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices The National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) is a searchable online database of mental health and substance abuse interventions, including suicide prevention.

Do you need help right now? Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK.

This web site is provided for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute providing medical advice or professional services. The information provided should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, and those seeking personal medical advice should consult with a licensed physician. No physician-patient relationship is created by this web site or its use. Neither HIPRC, the University of Washington, nor its employees, nor any contributor to this web site, makes any representations, express or implied, with respect to the information provided herein or to its use.