How Mental Health Awareness Month Came to Be

Serious mental illnesses cost the U.S. economy $193.2 billion each year

This month, we observe Mental Health Awareness – spreading the word about mental health, its causes, what we can do to help, and what resources are available to those who suffer from it. Mental health is not a local, regional, or national issue, but a global one.

The leading cause of disability worldwide is depression

While mental health stigmas are on the decline, there is still a long road ahead to meet this global crisis. Depression and anxiety combined cost the global economy an estimated $1 trillion each year.

The History of Mental Health Awareness Month

The origin of mental health awareness stretches back to 1908 when a man by the name of Clifford W. Beers published an autobiography about his experiences in public and private mental institutions. That same year, he would go on to found the National Committee for Mental Hygiene with philosopher William James and psychiatrist Adolf Meyer. Years later, their organization’s name would change to the National Mental Health Association and again to what we know it as today – Mental Health America.

It wouldn’t be until 1949 that the U.S. recognized Mental Health Week, which later became Mental Health Month. To this day, Mental Health America is a leading voice in educating people on mental health conditions and raising awareness. Each year, they publish a toolkit to spread the word. This year, the theme is Back to Basics.

Since its establishment, great strides have been made toward promoting acceptance, support, prevention, and recovery from mental health conditions. To name a few: The Affordable Care Act, The Community Mental Health Services Block Grant, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, The Garrett Lee Smith State/Tribal Suicide Prevention Program, and the list goes on and on.


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