The Origins of Mental Health Awareness Month
Updated: Apr 21
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and many large companies use this time to promote their mental health-orientated products. For some, this is a time of mourning, and for others, it’s a time of celebration, an anniversary of sorts, from the time when they were in a dark place.
But where did it all start? Nowadays we have projects like BreakTheStigma, STAY, and Project Semicolon, but what about before the internet? In this article, we’ll dive into who created Mental Health Awareness Month, MHAM, and the history of it from that point on.
MHAM was established in 1949 by the Mental Health America, MHA, organization. In hopes to spread awareness and celebrate the breakthroughs of mental health, it started as Mental Health Week and became MHAM.
MHA was created by a man named Clifford W. Beers, who suffered from extreme mental illness. During his stay in institutions, he noticed the extreme abuse and how frowned upon mental health was and set out on a mission to fix it.
In coordination with United States Junior Chamber, also known as Jaycees, they began mental health week just two short years after the National Mental Health Act was created, which inspired the National Institute of Mental Health to begin.
How it Affected America
Through the years, as mental health began accepted as a normal concept of life, many things happened. Organizations sprouted, projects began, and the stigma behind mental illness broke down. Below are some things that happened that were inspired by MHAM.
The Community Mental Health Services Block Grant, also known as Mental Health Block Grant, is provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in August 1981. It provided financial help to mental health-orientated groups and projects.
Inspired by the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act was established in 2004 as a federal law to ensure equal mental health coverage insurance.
Garrett Lee Smith State/Tribal Youth Suicide Prevention and Early Intervention Grant Program was established in 2004 by the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, which created by Senator Jack Reed in the Senate and Representative David Jolly in the House.
In 2010, The Affordable Care Act was passed to expand mental health insurance coverage to over 30 million Americans by 2016.
So, 72 years later, we have only improved in our journey to break the stigma behind mental health and spread awareness, as well as help people to recover. Now with projects like STAY, BreakTheStigma, Project Semicolon, and The Trevor Project, there are more than enough resources to help those in need.