Recognizing the importance of mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month

The green ribbon represents Mental Health Awareness Month.

Maggie Kroeger

The green ribbon represents Mental Health Awareness Month.

Maggie Kroeger, Opinion Editor

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Since 1949, May has been recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. In recent years, media, advocate groups and medical groups have begun to stress the importance of mental health awareness, trying to break down stereotypes and push against long-held stigmas. This has led to better awareness and more information pertaining mental health, which is vital to leading a healthy, progressive lifestyle.

Especially in students, mental health is still not always acknowledged as an important entity to living healthy lives. Students face large amounts of stress through various situations, and balancing all aspects of one’s life in a healthy way can feel nearly impossible. Older adults have more experience in how to cope and organize themselves, while teens are trying to learn these skills while balancing various different classes and activities. Not to say that adults don’t experience stress, but students have to learn to create balance and prioritize their lives, which many don’t have the maturity level or experience to do so efficiently. Sometimes it can feel as though one can never catch a break, always bouncing from one thing to the next without a break to regroup. For students, learning to take a break and regroup can be one of the most important things to do.

For me, mental health was never something I used to prioritize, and it showed. My stress and anxiety would bubble up to the surface constantly, like the burner was always on high and the pot was always full of water. It was a vicious cycle to be caught in, but once I learned more about mental health and how essential it is, I started to break out of that cycle.

For starters, recognizing the state of one’s mental health and evaluating it is an essential part of being mentally aware and healthy. While I used to let my “pot” over boil constantly and do nothing about it, I learned to recognize those feelings and take my pot off of the burner for a second. It’s important to recognize the warning signs of waning mental health, such as too little or too much sleep, no appetite, long lasting feelings of sadness, or constant stress. Recognizing these symptoms and taking a step back to regroup can prevent further problems, as well as create a healthier lifestyle. Mental health is important to everyday functioning, and taking care of it helps promote healthy, motivated living.

Self care is also incredibly important to maintain good mental health. I’ve learned throughout my high school years that my most effective form of self care is to take a break when I know I need one the most. It can be hard to break away from something urgent or important, but the work produced under too much pressure or stress can often be of poor quality. Sometimes all I need is 15 minutes of watching TV or reading a book to calm my mind, but sometimes I need a whole day or even a whole weekend. Self care can come in many different forms though, from things as simple as taking a long shower,  going for a drive and even painting. The important takeaway is that it’s okay to take a break and step away for a little bit. Decompressing and relieving some of that stress is the usually only way to get out of the vicious stress cycle that can feel all-consuming.

Overall, being mentally aware and actively practicing self care is important to our emotional, physical and social well being. Positive mental health allows people to realize their full potential, cope with the stresses of life effectively, work well and make meaningful contributions to the community. Especially during Mental Health Awareness Month, it is important to recognize the necessity of mental health and how essential it is to daily lives, as well as how it affects the world around us.

For more information about mental health, visit