May is Mental Health Awareness Month

by Lauren Stachew on May 19, 2016

This month marks the 67th annual Mental Health Awareness Month. The importance of observing this month is crucial when one looks at the statistics: approximately one in four American adults experience a mental health disorder in a given year. Yet to this day, a serious stigma still surrounds mental illness. According to the CDC, only 25 percent of people with mental health issues feel that other people are compassionate and sympathetic towards them. Huffington Post author Lindsay Holmes writes in the article ‘What If People Treated Physical Illness Like Mental Illness?’ that “…despite the staggering evidence and rhetoric aimed at helping people understand, many people still don’t get that being diagnosed with a mental illness isn’t something that’s in their control — just like having the flu, or food poisoning, or cancer isn’t in their control.” Artists like Robot Hugs and organizations like Art With Impact are working to combat the stigmas surrounding mental illness, and gradually, many people have begun to grow more accepting and open to learning more about mental health disorders that may impact a close friend, family member, or themselves.

The theme for this year’s Mental Health month is Life with a Mental Illness. Mental Health America (MHA), one of many organizations involved with running activities and programs for this month, calls on individuals to share what life with a mental illness feels like in words, videos, and photos by tagging their social media posts with the hashtag #mentalillnessfeelslike. These posts will be collected and shown at Incorporating social media into this month allows for people to speak up and share their experiences with others who may be struggling to share their own experiences, or to help others determine if they, too, are showing signs of a mental illness. MHA writes on their website that “sharing is the key to breaking down negative attitudes and misperceptions surrounding mental illnesses, and to show others that they are not alone in their feelings and their symptoms.” On May 10, Walgreens announced a campaign in partnership with MHA to address the growing need for mental health resources. A new section of their website is now dedicated to mental health and can help connect people to free, scientifically-based online screenings for a number of conditions. Their goal is to complete 3 million online screenings by the end of 2017.

In 2011, the University of Michigan Press published Mad at School: Rhetorics of Mental Disability and Academic Life by Margaret Price, which explores the contested boundaries between disability, illness, and mental health in higher education. From the book description, “Mental disability (more often called ‘mental illness’) is a topic of fast-growing interest in all spheres of American culture, including popular, governmental, aesthetic, and academic. Mad at School is a close study of the ways that mental disabilities impact academic culture. Investigating spaces including classrooms, faculty meeting rooms, and job searches, Price challenges her readers to reconsider long-held values of academic life, including productivity, participation, security, and independence. Ultimately, she argues that academic discourse both produces and is produced by a tacitly privileged ‘able mind,’ and that U.S. higher education would benefit from practices that create a more accessible academic world.” This is the first book to use a disability-studies perspective to focus on the ways that mental disabilities impact academic culture at institutions of higher education. Stephanie Kerschbaum of Disability Studies Quarterly writes “The book is a must-read, with appeal for both general academic and disability studies audiences, and is designed to have maximum impact within university culture. The readability of Price’s prose makes hers an important book to put in the hands of university administrators and teachers of all stripes.”


Mad at School is a Winner of the Conference on College Composition and Communication’s Outstanding Book Award, 2013.


Mental Health Resources

National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255)

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (1-800-662-HELP)

Mental Health America (MHA)

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

(En Español –


Local Resources

NIMH – 1100 N. Main St., Ann Arbor –  (734) 994-6611

Women’s Resource Center at the University of Michigan – 1540 E. Hospital Dr. – (855) 589-6626


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