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Why is Mental Health Awareness Important?

A design of a green tree blossoming inside a head with birds flying to demonstrate the importance of mental health awareness

You might take your mental health for granted when things are going well. But being aware of symptoms and treatment options can prepare you to face any unexpected challenges and support those around you.

Why is Mental Health Ignored?

Dr. William La Valle, a licensed psychologist and psychology instructor at SNHUAccording to Dr. William La Valle, a licensed psychologist and an instructor of psychology programs at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), many people don’t think to prioritize their mental health.

La Valle holds a doctorate in clinical psychology and was the recipient of a Provost award.

“Oftentimes, mental health falls by the wayside,” he said. But taking care of this aspect of your wellness is one of the most important things you can do if you want to lead a full and productive life.

According to La Valle, if you aren’t monitoring your mental health, you could be more vulnerable to its impacts.

“If you are not actively aware of your mental state you may notice things like shortened attention span, irritability and difficulty being actively engaged with your surroundings,” said La Valle.

If you have a solid awareness about mental health, on the other hand, you can take action to avoid symptoms like these and make strides to improve your overall well-being.

Why is Mental Health Important in Everyday Life?

An icon of two hands holding a heartSo, why is mental health important even when you’re not struggling? It informs just about every aspect of your life — and the lives of those around you.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), mental health affects multiple aspects of wellness, including:

  • Emotional well-being
  • Psychological well-being
  • Social well-being

Although mental and physical health are often discussed as separate phenomena, they’re actually quite intertwined, too.

“It is common to see someone struggling with mental health to experience physical health concerns,” La Valle said. “For example, anxiety and stress can lead to things like high blood pressure, headaches and loss of appetite.”

He noted that the reverse is also true, and there are benefits that come with exercising and taking care of your physical health.

“Engaging in regular self-care and taking care of your mental state should be scheduled into your daily routine just like doctor’s appointments, work, and chores,” La Valle said. “Taking time for yourself helps to decrease burnout and allows you to be more present in the moment.”

How Does Mental Health Affect Society at Large?

A blue icon and white icon in the shape of the world with arrows and dashes going around itJust like physical health, mental health can also be a public health issue. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, of the 582,484 individuals who were unsheltered, in emergency housing or in transitional housing on one night in 2022, 122,888 were reported to be severely mentally ill (PDF source). That’s over 21% in total.

In addition to other sociological factors, world events like pandemics, war and political unrest can also affect wellness on a broad scale. For example, Mental Health America reports that global conflict can cause high levels of stress and lead to depression, even if you aren’t impacted directly.

La Valle also pointed out that social media is a double-edged sword in this regard, capable of both helping and harming the general public.

“Apps like TikTok have lots of videos surrounding mental health, many which contain misinformation,” he said. “At the same time, they also help to decrease the stigma around mental health by opening up conversations on these topics.”

Why is Mental Health More Important Now Than Ever?

An icon of a person pushing a ball up a hillAccording to the Pew Charitable Trusts, the United States is currently in the midst of a mental health crisis. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported a growing and alarming percent of young people who are suicidal, depressed and/or experiencing sexual violence, and in 2023, Psychiatric News also reported that many psychiatrists are calling for action to address the issue of mental health (CDC PDF source).

There are many factors that could be contributing to this trend, but La Valle also noted that one thing is certain: the world is finally starting to pay more attention to mental health.

“Mental health has always been important,” he said. “Current research just further strengthens the connection between mental and physical health.”

He said discoveries about this connection between mental and physical health have led to more conversations, helping to change the public’s perspective on mental illness at large.

“The stigma surrounding mental health has greatly dramatically declined and individuals are seeking support now more than ever,” said La Valle. “However, we still have work to do in letting people know it’s OK to not be OK sometimes.”

What Mental Health Resources are Available?

An icon of two speech bubbles, one on top, stemming from the right, and one on the bottom, stemming from the left.Reaching out for help might not always feel easy, but it can lead to healing. “Just as one strives to keep their body in shape, ensuring your mental health is also ‘in shape,’ means being the best person you can be,” La Valle said.

If you or someone you know is struggling, consult a doctor or clinician. To find care, you can reach out to your insurance company or use Psychology Today’s directory to find a mental health professional in your area.

For immediate help, the following services are also available in the United States:

"Feeling confident and being open about your own mental health can be really powerful," La Valle said. "Don’t be afraid to put yourself first."

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Mars Girolimon ’21 ’23G is a staff writer at Southern New Hampshire University where they earned their bachelor’s and master’s, both in English and creative writing. In addition to their work in higher education, Girolimon’s short fiction is published in the North American Review, So It Goes by The Kurt Vonnegut Museum & Library, X-R-A-Y and more. They’re currently writing their debut novel, which was Longlisted for The First Pages Prize. Connect with them on LinkedIn.

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