As you know, there are many causes that declare a certain day, week or month of the year to remind us of the importance of the cause. Some have a prevention focus, while others aim to increase public awareness. For example, coming up in May is Mental Health Month and more recently there was Mental Illness Awareness Week which takes place the first week of October each year. Of course being aware of a mental health issue (or any other health care issue) or condition can best benefit every person, family, organization and community when we increase awareness throughout the year . . . not just on a given month or week.

So when we say become more aware, what do we really mean as it relates to mental and behavioral health issues? Is it just a general term, or does it mean very specific situations experienced in everyday living? Webster defines awareness (noun), “as having knowledge of”, and also to be aware (adjective) as, “knowing that something (such as a situation, condition, or problem) exists”. You may by now be asking why these basic words and definitions matter in the fast paced world that we live in? They matter to me because I believe that each of us have probably been aware of a specific person who has experienced some type of behavioral health problem that could benefit from treatment. In the most extreme cases, one of the lessons to be learned from the most horrific violent incidents (i.e. school shootings) is that a person or family member had some knowledge or awareness of that individual’s personal struggle and in some cases how it might negatively impact others. Learning to be more aware and understanding how best to respond could in some situations be a lifesaver.

It’s important to note, we now have a program that is available nationwide called Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). Anyone can take the course and learn a 5-step action plan to offer help to people with the signs and symptoms of a mental illness or experiencing a crisis. If you are interested, please visit our website to learn more about MHFA and how you can become a part of building awareness and strengthening your community. You could save a life one day.