Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month

History and Ways of Self Care

5/1/2024 | Angela Whitlock, CSRA

Mental Health Awareness Month was established in 1949, and has helped increase awareness of the importance of mental health and wellness in the lives of Americans. It is also a month in which to celebrate recovery or remission from a mental illness. The awareness month was founded by Clifford W. Beers of Mental Health America, and was originally for only a week. The organization Mental Health America aims to destigmatize mental illnesses, raise awareness on suicide, and draw attention to both psychological disorders and the communities these disorders affect.  

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, along with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Government, public health community, and the public have spent the past 20 years increasing their efforts in raising awareness regarding the importance of understanding both prevention and treatment of mental health problems.  

Some successful efforts that have raised awareness about the importance of mental health and promoted acceptance, support, prevention, and recovery include:  

  • The Affordable Care Act 

  • The Community Mental Health Services Block Grant 

  • Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 

  • The Garrett Lee Smith State/Tribal Suicide Prevention Program 

To read more about these efforts, check out this resource.


These efforts have caused Mental Health Awareness Month to generate interest in other parts of the world. In the United Kingdom, they honor Mental Health Awareness Week, which takes place from May 13-19. This year, their theme for the week is Movement: Moving More for our Mental Health.  

The National Alliance on Mental Illness is also fostering a campaign this year called Take the Moment. This campaign encourages fostering open dialogues and cultivating empathy and understanding. It also highlights the importance of destigmatizing mental health through normalizing the practice of taking moments to prioritize it without guilt or shame. You can download the NAMI Toolkit here.

The University of Michigan is also promoting Mental Health Awareness Month through a series of webinars and livestreams. Topics include: Building Strong Roots: Tools for Strengthening Parental Mental Health and Good Nights, Better Days – Sleep’s Relationship to Mental Health, among others. Access these informative sessions here.


Remember, taking care of your mental health is essential. Here are some ideas to honor Mental Health Awareness Month: 

  • Get enough sleep. Adults under 60 need around 7 hours of sleep per night.   

  • Practice meditation. Meditating for up to 10 minutes a day can help with stress reduction and increase mindfulness. 

  • Practice gratitude. Think of one thing you are grateful for each day. 

  • Listen to others and check in on friends and family.  

  • Take breaks throughout your workday to stretch and relax. 

  • Spend time outdoors.   

  • Get moving. 

The Champaign County Forest Preserves are a perfect place to implement some of these ideas. Walk our trails to get moving and spend time outdoors. It can also be incredibly relaxing and peaceful to be outside among nature. While walking our trails, think of some things that bring happiness to your life and that you are thankful for. You can also meet friends and family for a walk and a conversation about mental health, or you can find a quiet spot outside to meditate and listen to the many sounds within the forests.  



Sources:, University of North Alabama (online), Mental Health Foundation (online),, University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry (online) 

Image Credit: Unsplash