May kicks off Mental Health Awareness Month (MHAM). This is a starting point resource for employers to actively support and recognize Mental Health in the workplace. Learn how your organization can recognize Mental Health Awareness Month.
Mental health as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) includes a person’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how a person thinks, feels, and acts as well as helps determine how one handles stress, relates to others, and makes healthy choices. The CDC also lists more than 200 types of mental illness, with some of the most common being anxiety, bi-polar disorder, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Other less common illnesses include seasonal affective disorder, phobias, and panic disorders. For more information on mental health you can visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website.
Since the spring of 2020, companies have had to restructure how they engage with employees’ mental health and recognize how employees’ physical and mental well-being is paramount in creating a balanced work-life environment. It’s important to remember that a person’s mental health can change over time, depending on many factors. For instance, if someone is taking on multiple tasks, such as working long hours while caring for a family member or experiencing economic hardship, they may also be experiencing poor mental health.
When thinking about the statistics of mental health, the CDC reports:
- In their lifetime, over 50% of people will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder.
- One in five Americans will experience a mental illness annually.
- One in 25 Americans lives with a serious mental illness.
Use the quick navigation links below to jump ahead to a specific topic:
- The History of Mental Health Awareness Month
- Why Mental Health Awareness Month Is Important
- How Mental Health Awareness Month Is Traditionally Celebrated
- Employee Considerations
- How to Recognize Mental Health Awareness Month at Work
- TED Talks and Documentaries to Watch
- Books to Read
- Podcasts to Listen to
- Guest Speakers
- How Companies Are Celebrating
The History of Mental Health Awareness Month
You may still be wondering: What is Mental Health Awareness Month? Since 1949, May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which is also known as Mental Health Month, and has been observed in the United States. The monthly event came about by presidential proclamation. The start of Mental Health Awareness Month was formed by the Mental Health America (MHA) organization which at that time was known as the National Association for Mental Health.
The purpose of MHAM is to raise awareness and educate the public about: mental illness and the many Americans who live day to day with conditions that impact their mental health. Additionally, MHAM strives to reduce the stigma of negative attitudes and misconceptions that surround mental illness.
Also this month:
- May 1-31 — National Maternal Depression Awareness Month
- May 1-7 — Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week
- May 3 — National Anxiety Disorders Screening Day
- May 4 — World Maternal Mental Health Awareness Day
- May 7-13 — Children’s Mental Health Acceptance Week
- May 15-21 — Mental Health Awareness Week
- May 11 — National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day
- May 14-20 — National Women’s Health Week
- May 21-27 — National Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Week
- May 24 — World Schizophrenia Awareness Day
- June — Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month
- June — National PTSD Awareness Month
- July — Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month
- July — National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month
- September — Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
- September 10 — World Suicide Prevention Day
- October 1-7 — Mental Illness Awareness Week
Why Mental Health Awareness Month Is Important
A global pandemic paired with political and racial unrest in the United States really pushed mental health to the forefront. In 2022, it was such a pivotal year for mental health that the U.S. Surgeon General issued its first-ever report outlining what’s called the general framework for workplace well-being and how companies can play a role in promoting and protecting mental health. The subject matter became so mainstream that President Biden, in a State of the Union address, called for making mental health services available to every American who needs them.
If that weren’t enough, employers have even more reason to take prioritizing mental health more seriously as a 2022 workplace survey found 92.6% of employees experience mental health challenges that impact their work.
How Mental Health Awareness Month Is Traditionally Celebrated
The National Alliance on Mental Illness will be announcing the theme for 2023 soon. Previously, the 2022 theme was “Together for Mental Health.” The month is also recognized through NAMICon, a weekend of events hosted May 24-27 of this year in Minneapolis. The conference is billed as a way to engage, challenge, and include participants in dynamic discussions that will introduce them to new ideas and tools that can be applied in everyday life and the workplace.
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Mental Health Awareness Month Employee Considerations
Companies should consider taking Mental Health Awareness Month as an opportunity to shine a spotlight on providing helpful mental health resources, information, and content to your employees and their employee resource groups. It might be helpful to encourage people within the company to take action through various efforts that include but are not limited to making sure employees have a place where they feel supported.
NAMI has compiled a useful call-to-action guide that details what to do in a crisis. Additionally, the Boca Recovery Center shared a comprehensive guide on substance abuse and mental health hotlines, including a resource for veterans experiencing a crisis.
How to Recognize Mental Health Awareness Month at Work
Invite guest speakers. Use a full-service speakers bureau such as Speaker Hub to book advocates and motivational speakers dedicated to mental health issues.
Host workshops. Bring in a professional to coach employees on improving their communication skills when speaking about mental health at work.
Choose a TED Talk or documentary to discuss. Recommend the film at the start of the month and hold a panel discussion toward the end of the month.
Here are a few TED Talks to consider:
- Mark Bailey’s “Can I Speak To Your Manager?” (2022)
- Tom Oxley’s “Workplace Mental Health – all you need to know (for now)” (2018)
- Vikram Patel’s “Mental Health For All By Involving All” (2012)
Here are a few documentaries to consider:
- “Nadiya Hussain: Anxiety and Me” (2021; available on YouTube)
- “Shadow Voices: Finding Hope in Mental Illness” (2005; available on Amazon Prime)
- “Light In The Darkness – Living Well After Trauma” (2019; available on Apple TV)
Partner with employee resource groups (ERGs). If you don’t have an ERG dedicated to mental health, consider partnering with a local organization.
Organize an event where all employees can interact in a safe space where everyone feels included. This could be a team or company-wide lunch.
Host a fundraiser NAMI has a platform called Do It Yourself (DIY) Fundraiser that is the perfect way to take initiative and raise money for mental health organizations and causes that can directly benefit employees.
Start a book club. There is a vast selection of books that recognize mental health. Choose a book at the start of the month so your team has time to finish it before a month-end discussion. We’ve mined the list of resources below from leading experts in mental health.
Books to Read for Mental Health Awareness Month
- “On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety,” by Andrea Petersen (2017)
- “This is Depression,” by Diane McIntosh (2019)
- “Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting,” by Terrie M. Williams (2009)
Podcasts for Mental Health Awareness Month
- Therapy for Black Girls: Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed psychologist in Atlanta, leads a weekly conversation about all things mental health and professional development.
- Inside Mental Health: A weekly podcast that approaches psychology and mental health in an accessible way.
- Cleaning Up The Mental Mess with Dr. Caroline Leaf: Explore the practical and scientific ways you can help take back control of your mental, emotional, and physical health.
Guest Speakers for Mental Health Awareness Month
- Charles Clark is a former pro athlete turned wellness and mindful coach with an uplifting and energizing message that challenges everyone to get well and live their best life.
- Mike Veny is a world-renowned mental health motivational speaker that is guaranteed to engage, empower, encourage, and enlighten any audience to take actionable steps to promote mental wellness.
- Dr. Rhonda Wood has been recognized as one of the most prominent voices for mental health advocacy by using her more than 30 years in the corporate sector to normalize and destigmatize mental health conversations.
How Companies Are Celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month
- April-May 2023: NAMI hosts local walks across all 50 states.
- May 24-27: National Alliance on Mental Illness hosts NamiCon.
- May 5: Three Jewels Outreach Center hosts MED Gala red carpet fundraiser in Queens, NY.
- May 6: Vesta hosts Stop The Stigma 5K Race/Walk in Patchogue, NY.
- May 20: The OceanCares Foundation hosts its 5th Mental Health and Wellness Fair in Mantoloking, NJ.
- June 6-10: Mental Health America hosts a conference virtually and in Washington, DC.
- Previously, Comcast-NBCUniversal hosted wellness hours for employees to reflect.
Visit our DEI calendar for a complete list of holidays, events, and commemorations for DEI leaders to recognize throughout the year.