Every month in the United States - and the world, really - we honor, celebrate and raise awareness of a certain cause, idea, or issue that is important to the high function and wellness of society. Of course, every month has multiple matters that it pays tribute to, but in case you missed the memo, here's a brief overview of some of the subjects honored every month:
January - New Beginnings, but also: National Clean Up Your Computer Month and National Hot Tea Month [which, as an avid tea drinker, I totally support].
February - Black History Month, but also: Valentines Day.
March - International Women's History Month - but also: National Reading Month, Disability Awareness Month, and Multiple Sclerosis Month.
April - Sexual Assault Month - but also: Stress Awareness Month, Earth Month, Alcohol Awareness Month, Arab American Heritage Month, and Autism Acceptance Month [side note: if you haven't yet, please check out my friend Dr Angela Lauria's podcast: The Autistic Culture]
May - Mental Health Awareness Month - but also the intercession of Mary as Moth of God, Arthritis Awareness Month, Women's Health Care Month, and National Walking Month
June - Pride month - but also PTSD Awareness Month, Gun Violence Awareness Month, Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month, and Immigrant Heritage Month
July - National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month - but also Disability Pride Month, French-American Heritage Month, and Plastic Free July
August - Don't Be A Bully Month - but also National Black Business Month, World Cancer Month, and National Immunization Awareness Month.
September - Recognizing Drug and Alcohol Addiction Month, exploring mental health and substance abuse - but also Blood Cancer Awareness Month, Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and Sickle Cell Awareness Month
October - Depression Awareness Month - but also ADHD Awareness Month, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and National Book Month
November - National Homeless Youth Awareness Month - but also Native American Heritage Month, Diabetes Awareness Month, and Epilepsy Awareness Month.
Phewf. It's a lot. Because, as humans, we experience a lot. We endure a lot. We persevere in spite of a lot. Yet: we continually live under the pretense that we need to ascribe to only one narrative.
In the months leading up to my TEDx Talk last year about how music and songwriting saved me after having had ten brain surgeries: I really struggled with this concept. We all have many stories, many levels, many causes, many pages to our books... many songs in our albums.
Which brings me back to the purpose of today's blog post:
Mental Health Awareness Month - Honoring Every Side of our Mental Health
According to the American Hospital Association: May is a time to raise awareness of those living with mental or behavioral health issues and to help reduce the stigma so many experience. Hospitals and health systems play an important role in providing behavioral health care and helping patients find resources available in their community.
It was originally established by the Mental Health America organization as a way to educate the public about mental illness, raise awareness surrounding research and treatments, reduce the shame associated with mental illness, and celebrate recovery from mental illness. People too often suffer in silence and don’t seek treatment for their conditions. Mental health awareness is an important initiative to improve understanding of mental health conditions and increase access to healthcare for those who need it.
Of course, there's oodles of organizations, professionals, associations, and health care specialists who focus on mental health and well being, but the buck doesn't stop with them.
We can all do something too. Including you [yes, you!] Here's a quick list of ways that you can continue to honor mental health awareness month - even after May is long over and done.
Share on Social Media
Sharing your stories, your experiences, your trials and your triumphs with your community can be so effective in not only raising awareness around issues that matter, but also helps those who may be struggling to recognize they are not alone. You're not alone either.
By standing in your truth, and sharing your truth: your community has the opportunity to identify with you, connect with you, and reach out/help/be inspired by you.
It's so easy for us to focus on our highlight reels when it comes to what we share publicly, but character isn't built in easy times - it's built in times of struggle. Honoring what you've been through is pivotal to who you're becoming, and how you can inspire and help others to persevere in times of struggle as well. Of course, it's not easy - I've certainly struggled with the vulnerability that comes with showing up authentically and honestly... especially on my shitty days.
That's one of the reasons why I've found music and songwriting to be so helpful. When I've struggled with my depression [which I was diagnosed for when I was just 12years old]: I've always turned to songwriting... because not only did it give me an opportunity to step into the power of my voice, and understand myself better, but it helped me share my story with my community. [Of course: social media wasn't a thing when I was 12, but I could still share through performances, and recording my songs].
Add a Frame to Your Facebook Profile
I know it's easy to brush off social media posts as passive, or unhelpful, and sure: you may want to do more than simply posting on social media about mental health awareness, depression, anxiety or suicide prevention... but as with anything in life: every journey starts with a step.
And if that step is simply showing solidarity through your social media presence: then excellent. Go forth. Do the thing.
Again: you're able to do something rather powerful with your profile by giving those in your immediate community the opportunity to connect with you, feel seen, heard, validated, and safe. Even after the month of May comes to a close. There is no shame in being honest about your struggle, or giving others the opportunity to feel safe with you about their struggle.
At the beginning of this post, I made mention that we live in a society that seemingly dictates that we all need to align ourselves with one story or one narrative at any one time... but just as you can honor every side of your mental health, as well as share about it on social media and do seemingly trivial things such as adding a frame to your public profiles: you can do so much more when it comes to honoring all of you and your mental health journey - especially beyond mental health awareness month.
Because - again:
June honors PTSD - a key issue for those of us with mental health struggles.
July honors minorities with Mental Health conditions
August discusses bullying... which, as we know: leads to mental health struggles, but is also a result of unhealed trauma.
September is about Drug and Alcohol Addiction... which also contributes significantly to the mental wellbeing of both the addicts, as well as their friends and family.
October is Depression Awareness Month.
November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, which absolutely can result in mental health issues.
With so many adverse experiences that life throws at us, our friends, families and community: mental health awareness month can only do so much for us. We need to recognize the importance of our mental health journeys beyond the month of May.
Which is one of the many reasons why I'm releasing a song a month in honor of a cause, awareness or issue that is being honored.
In February, granted: it was a love song I released, but "Soon" was - above all - about the struggles that come with love.
I wrote this when I was just 14years old, but - again - it wasn't just written because I wanted to express myself... I wanted to connect with my community. This song served as part of my own self care journey, as I was beginning to learn about love.
March - in honor of women's history month: I released a song called The Show [written when I was 12years old], that - again - explored my mental health journey through establishing my role as a young woman in society.
Similarly: I released Barbed Wire, [originally written when I was just 15years old] to not only acknowledge, but also rise from the experience of sexual assault in honor of the cause that was honored in April.
And I'm continuing to do this work throughout the entirety of 2023. Because, yes: mental health awareness month is an important month to acknowledge, honor and respect: but our mental and emotional well being can't be relegated to just one month.
Our lives can't be deduced down to one story.
I look at my life as a collection of albums - chock-filled with songs that represent each and every one of the lessons, successes, blessings, and adversities that I've endured and ultimately overcome.
Your life isn't limited to just one story or song either... nor is your teenagers'. If you're looking for an innovative new way to approach your emotional- and mental- health and well being journey, I'd love to hop on a free discovery call to learn more about you, your story, and discuss how music and songwriting might be beneficial to you and your life's success.
Simply click here to book a time that works best for you [all times are in EST].
I look forward to speaking with you soon!
~ Emma G