By Jerry Avenaim | FOUNDER |

May is mental health awareness month, and I would like to take this opportunity to explain what that means, and how you can partner with us to create an impact in your community through raising awareness.

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First, as the founder of the Mental Health Foundation, I would like to say the following about why this is personal for me, and why I had to start the foundation.

I have enjoyed a career as an award winning fashion, celebrity photographer and director, with my work featured in Vogue, GQ, Vanity Fair, Newsweek and People Magazine.

In public I am the photographer to the stars of Hollywood, with appearances on many television shows including America’s Next Top Model and Dr. Phil, but in private I have battled anxiety as well as depression for much of my adult life.

Every day millions of people struggle with mental health conditions, and they often suffer alone and in silence because of the stigma surrounding mental health conditions.

Like many others, I too have lost loved ones to addiction and suicide over the years, and after Robbin Williams untimely passing I decided to stop sitting on the sidelines while so many suffer, feel misunderstood, alone and without options.

I merged my own experiences fighting depression and anxiety with my passion and life long career as a top-tier photographer to create The Mental Health Foundation, where the vision is to break the stigma and to give a voice to those who cannot speak, and hope to those who feel hopeless through raising awareness. Together no one is alone and together we can bring great change.

By Jerry Avenaim | FOUNDER |

May is mental health awareness month, and I would like to take this opportunity to explain what that means, and how you can partner with us to create an impact in your community through raising awareness.

First, as the founder of the Mental Health Foundation, I would like to say the following about why this is personal for me, and why I had to start the foundation.

I have enjoyed a career as an award winning fashion, celebrity photographer and director, with my work featured in Vogue, GQ, Vanity Fair, Newsweek and People Magazine. In public I am the photographer to the stars of Hollywood, with appearances on many television shows including America’s Next Top Model and Dr. Phil, but in private I have battled anxiety as well as depression for much of my adult life.

Every day millions of people struggle with mental health conditions, and they often suffer alone and in silence because of the stigma surrounding mental health conditions.

Like many others, I too have lost loved ones to addiction and suicide over the years, and after Robbin Williams untimely passing I decided to stop sitting on the sidelines while so many suffer, feel misunderstood, alone and without options.

I merged my own experiences fighting depression and anxiety with my passion and life long career as a top-tier photographer to create The Mental Health Foundation, where the vision is to break the stigma and to give a voice to those who cannot speak, and hope to those who feel hopeless through raising awareness. Together no one is alone and together we can bring great change.

jerry-avenaim-mental-health-foundation-founder-executive-director-headshot-800x700

What is Mental Health?

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According to mentalhealth.gov mental health includes our social, emotional and psychological well-being, and that each of these govern our feelings, thoughts and actions as well as shape our relationships, decision making and the way we cope with stress.

The WHO (World Health Organization) describes mental health disorders as being typically defined by a mix of perceptions, abnormal thinking, emotions, relationships and behaviors. Most commonly these are seen as bipolar, depression, dementia, psychoses like schizophrenia, as well as developmental conditions like autism. 

For more information on the various conditions, visit our condition descriptions in sections of disorders including the following groupings 

Anxiety Childhood
Cognitive  Eating
Mood Personality
Schizophrenia & Other Psychotic Substance related

 
Some websites may present different groupings such as the “Impulse Control and Addiction”, “Factitious”, “Sexual or Gender” , or “Somatic Symptom” disorders as are seen on WEBMD.

For more information on the various conditions, visit our condition descriptions in sections of disorders including the following groupings 

Some websites may present different groupings such as the “Impulse Control and Addiction”, “Factitious”, “Sexual or Gender” , or “Somatic Symptom” disorders as are seen on WEBMD.

What causes mental health conditions?

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There are a number of known triggers for many conditions or disorders, and there are also risk factors that can make certain people more susceptible to experiencing issues. The government Mental Health website indicates that for many people, the bulk of contributing elements include:

  • Traumatic experiences
  • History of mental health issues in the family
  • Brain chemistry, genetics, or other biological factors

How would I recognize warning signs?

Without becoming a mental health professional you would not be able to make a diagnosis, but depending on the specific condition or its severity, if you observe one or a few from the following list, they may be warning signs that someone is suffering.

  • Extremes in eating (not enough or too much)
  • Withdrawing from social interaction with family or friends  
  • Reduction or cessation of favorite pastimes
  • Slight or severe reduction in energy levels
  • Development of apathy 
  • Feeling 
    • Numb
    • Hopeless
    • Helpless
  • Unexplained medical conditions
  • Increased frequency or taking up using drugs, drinking or smoking
  • Being abnormally angry, forgetful, scared, confused, or worried
  • Fighting or having angry outbursts with friends, family co-workers
  • Ongoing mood swings that cause severe relationship issues 
  • Constantly reliving unwelcome memories
  • Obsessing on particular thoughts
  • Hearing voices
  • Having thoughts of harming others or oneself
  • Unable to look after kids or leave the house to go to school or work

Who is affected by mental health conditions?

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Whether we know it or not, either directly or indirectly it affects all of us in some way, and the degree of impact from Mental Health issues can vary from 

  • being unsettling 
  • robbing someone of peace or hope for today or for the future 
  • debilitating and preventing individual from leaving home, and or keeping a job or relationships
  • or leading to suicide.

There are no nationalities, genders, ages, religions, political affiliations, beliefs, professions, levels of education, relationship status, or net worth where people are not susceptible to suffering from mental health issues. It can affect:

Preschoolers Middle schoolers
High schoolers School drop outs
College students The unemployed
The employed The rich
The poor Moms
Dads Famous people
Athletes Musicians
Politicians Models
Actors Business people
Single People Married people

Who is affected by mental health conditions?

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Whether we know it or not, either directly or indirectly it affects all of us in some way, and the degree of impact from Mental Health issues can vary from 

  • being unsettling 
  • robbing someone of peace or hope for today or for the future 
  • debilitating and preventing individual from leaving home, and or keeping a job or relationships
  • or leading to suicide.

There are no nationalities, genders, ages, religions, political affiliations, beliefs, professions, levels of education, relationship status, or net worth where people are not susceptible to suffering from mental health issues. It can affect:

  • Preschoolers
  • Middle schoolers
  • High schoolers
  • School drop outs
  • College students
  • The unemployed
  • The employed
  • The rich
  • The poor
  • Moms
  • Dads
  • Famous people
  • Athletes
  • Musicians
  • Politicians
  • Models
  • Actors
  • Business people
  • Unknown people
  • Single People
  • Married people

Who do you know that could be experiencing mental health issues?

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Anyone you know could be suffering without those around them knowing.  They could be a 

Sibling Parent
Child Grandparent
Uncle Aunt
Cousin Teacher
Friend Spouse / partner
Employer Employee
Co-worker Neighbor

Who do you know that could be experiencing mental health issues?

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Anyone you know could be suffering without those around them knowing.  They could be a 

  • Sibling
  • Parent
  • Child
  • Grandparent, Uncle, Aunt, Cousin
  • Teacher
  • Friend
  • Spouse / partner
  • Employer
  • Employee
  • Co-worker
  • Neighbor

What is Mental Health Awareness Month?

Since 1949 the month of may has been Mental Health Awareness month. During this time you will see movie screenings, events in your local community, and stories in the media around raising awareness. 

This national movement is an opportunity for focused attention and discussion on the topic of Mental Health.  Now more than ever, this is particularly important with how so many of us are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic since we are dealing with more stress and anxiety than in recent times due to unparalleled uncertainty in these times combined with the need for social distancing.

Through this month long conversation people can understand more about various Mental Health conditions and help to end the stigma as we work together to normalize the discussion as well as the topic of treatment.

One of the by-products of Mental Health Awareness Month is that for those who suffer, their journey is lightened when they see so many in the community talking about mental health, and this helps them feel less alone.

When is Mental Health Awareness Month?

May is Mental Health Awareness Month in 2021.

What is the Mental Health Awareness color?

The color green is the internationally recognized color for mental health awareness, and this is most commonly seen in a ribbon symbol. This green can be seen in our Mental Health Foundation logo and in various places around our site. 

What are key dates on the mental health calendar for the 2021 awareness month?

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  • Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week  May 2nd – 8th
  • National Older Adults Mental Health Awareness Day – XXX
  • National Prevention Week May 9th – May 15th
    • May 11: Opioid & Prescription Drug misuse prevention
    • May 12: Underage Drinking and Alcohol prevention & Misuse
    • May 13: Youth Marijuana and Illicit Drug Use Prevention 
    • May 14: Youth Vaping, E-cigarettes, and Tobacco use prevention 
  • May 23 – May 29: SchizophreniaAwareness Week

The month of may is also Borderline Personality Disorder awareness month.

Why is Mental Health Awareness so important?

Awareness is important for a number of reasons including being able to identify symptoms of anxiety, depression, acute stress or other conditions and understand when someone you care about may need help. This includes 

  • You
  • Family or loved ones 
  • Friends or coworkers

Many times it is not always immediately apparent that an individual is suffering, and for those who are, the degree to which their life is being impacted is not always accurately defined through the severity of observable symptoms.

For those who don’t have members of their family or close friends who have disclosed mental health struggles, it is still possible to make a difference in the lives of those around us by being more aware of 

  • The different conditions, 
  • Their symptoms, 
  • And possible triggers etc.

In addition, with increased awareness society changes, and the average person is more conscious of mental health for themselves and for others. With these advances in collective thought we begin to see changes made which have impact at the communities, city, state and national level.  In recent weeks changes there have been a number of stories in the press about how changes are being made in regards to increasing the options available in response to 911 callers.

In an article entitled There’s a new approach to police response to mental health emergencies. Taking the police out of it, CNN reported on the launch of the non-police Street Crisis Response Team in San Francisco. The program started in February, and by the end of March 2021 there will be 6 teams of medical professionals and health care clinicians responding to non-violent addiction and mental health 911 calls. Additionally, KXAN in Austin Texas reported that there is a new option presented to 911 callers where they can connect immediately with an on-site mental health professional.

What are some ways I can be involved in raising awareness and making a difference?

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It’s not just other people – awareness starts at home, and part of being in a good place to help those around you is to do a self inventory to see if there is anything you might need.  For you or a loved one, the steps to a healthier mental life may include:

  • Becoming consistently physically active
  • Reconnecting with family and friends
  • Finding a passtime
  • Establishing routine in your life
  • Becoming more positive through cultivating gratitude and controlling your thoughts
  • Take an online mental screening like this one 
  • Seeking professional helping needed

Being in a healthier mental place allows people to better handle stress, live up to their potential, be more productive, live longer and healthier lives, and be a valued contributor in the community.

In looking to take steps to help others, consider some of the following

  • Learn about conditions, their impact, symptoms, treatment etc – The more you know, the easier it will be to be compassionate, and to make a difference.
  • Set time aside to think about the potential for you to harbor any bias or have thought processes which are rooted in stigma based thinking.
  • Be an advocate within your friends and family, at work or at school.
  • Show understanding, acceptance and respect to those who struggle with mental health conditions in your in-person conversations as well as in your online social presence.
  • Thoughtfully consider sharing your story either with family and friends or online. Another person voicing their struggles and how they have coped or treatment they have received helps others feel less alone.
  • Support a non-profit mental health organization, and be a part of their efforts to #breakthestigma and raise awareness.
  • Share this blog post on your Facebook page and on other social media apps.
  • Choose the Mental Health Foundation  for your birthday fundraiser on Facebook.

Inspire others to join with you in raising awareness by following the above steps.

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What are some Mental Health awareness quotes I can share online?

“Just because no one else can heal or do your inner work for you doesn’t mean you can, should, or need to do it alone.” ~ Lisa Olivera “You don’t have to struggle in silence. You can be un-silent. You can live well with a mental health condition, as long as you open up to somebody about it.” ~ Demi Lovato
“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversation.” ~ Glenn Close “Your illness does not define you. Your Strength and courage does” ~ Unknown
“Do not judge someone’s story by the chapter you walked in on.” ~ Unknown “Self care is how you take your power back ” ~ Unknown
“It’s ok to not be ok. Just don’t give up.” ~ Unknown “Change the way we all talk to each other about our mental health.” ~ Kate Middleton
“I believe the biggest stigma right now, with mental health, is that a lot of men are not talking about it.” ~ Mauro Renallo “There is no health without mental health; mental health is too important to be left to the professionals alone, and mental health is everyone’s business.” ~ Vikram Patel
“Mental health is an area where people are embarrassed. They don’t want to talk about it because somehow they feel they’re a failure as a parent or, you know, they’re embarrassed for their child or they want to protect their child, lots of very good reasons, but mental health, I feel, is something that you have to talk about.” ~ Anna Wintour “We have seen that two heads are better than one when dealing with a mental health problem.” ~ Kate Middleton
“I found that with depression, one of the most important things you can realize is that you’re not alone. You’re not the first to go through it, you’re not gonna be the last to go through it,” ~ Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson “The experience I have had is that once you start talking about [experiencing a mental health struggle], you realize that actually you’re part of quite a big club.” ~ Prince Harry
“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.” ~ Fred Rogers “There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t.” ~ John Green
“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” ~ Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in” ~ Leonard Cohen
“There isn’t anybody out there who doesn’t have a mental health issue, whether it’s depression, anxiety, or how to cope with relationships. Having OCD is not an embarrassment anymore – for me. Just know that there is help and your life could be better if you go out and seek the help.” ~ Howie Mandel “Being vulnerable is actually a strength and not a weakness — that’s why more and more mental health is such an important thing to talk about. It’s the same as being physically sick. And when you keep all those things inside, when you bottle them up, it makes you ill.” ~ Cara Delevingne
“I say that publicly because I think it’s really important to take the stigma away from mental health… My brain and my heart are really important to me. I don’t know why I wouldn’t seek help to have those things be as healthy as my teeth. I go to the dentist. So why wouldn’t I go to a shrink?” ~ Kerry Washington “What I love about therapy is that they’ll tell you what your blind spots are. Although that’s uncomfortable and painful, it gives you something to work with.” ~ Pink
“Anyone can be affected, despite their level of success or their place on the food chain. In fact, there is a good chance you know someone who is struggling with it since nearly 20% of American adults face some form of mental illness in their lifetime. So why aren’t we talking about it?” ~ Kristen Bell “I was with someone recently who asked: ‘Well, don’t you think that if you do too much therapy it will take away your artistic process?’ And I told them: ‘The biggest lie that we’ve ever been sold is that we as artists have to stay in pain to create.’” ~ Katy Perry
“I don’t regret opening up about what I went through [with depression], because it sounds really cliché, but I have had women come up to me and say, ‘It meant so much to me.’ It means so much when you realize that someone was having a really hard time and feeling shame and was trying to hide this whole thing.” ~ Winona Ryder “I knew well enough that one could fracture one’s legs and arms and recover afterward, but I did not know that you could fracture the brain in your head and recover from that too.” ~ Vincent van Gogh
“I’m not the kind of person who likes to shout out my personal issues from the rooftops, but with my bipolar becoming public, I hope fellow sufferers will know it’s completely controllable. I hope I can help remove any stigma attached to it, and that those who don’t have it under control will seek help with all that is available to treat it.” ~ Catherine Zeta-Jones “I just was in a funk. Mostly, I felt like I was not a good mom. I read several articles that said postpartum emotions can last up to 3 years if not dealt with. And I like communication best. Talking things through with my sisters, my friends, let me know that my feelings are totally normal. It’s totally normal to feel like I’m not doing enough for my baby.” ~ Serena Williams
“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.” ~ Charles Spurgeon Don’t believe everything you think.”  ~ Unknown
“I found that with depression, one of the most important things you could realize is that you’re not alone. You’re not the first to go through it; you’re not going to be the last to go through it.” ~ The Rock “I can slip in and out of depression quite easily. I had really bad postpartum depression after I had my son. It frightened me and I didn’t talk to anyone about it. I was very reluctant…Four of my friends felt the same way I did, and everyone was too embarrassed to talk about it.” ~ Adele

What are some Mental Health awareness quotes I can share online?

“Just because no one else can heal or do your inner work for you doesn’t mean you can, should, or need to do it alone.”

Mental health statistics

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To add more texture to the information surrounding mental health and why mental health awareness is so important, it is essential to provide some level of detail on the numbers associated with mental health here in the US.

Our next post leading up to mental health awareness month will address this with some high level statistics as well as a closer look at some specific pockets of information so you will have more of an overall picture along with specific trends in mental health during COVID-19.

In addition to some of our readers learning something new, we trust that some may also become equipped with talking points as they look to find opportunities to raise mental health awareness within their own circles.

Thank you so much for your interest in learning more about mental health awareness and for doing what you can to help during May 2021 and for the remainder of the year.

~ Jerry Avenaim

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About the Author: Jerry Avenaim – Contributor

Jerry Avenaim - Founder of Mental Health Foundation - Bio headshotPhotographer – Director – Advocate – Survivor – Founder of the Mental Health Foundation. Jerry Avenaim is an award winning fashion, celebrity photographer and director. His work has been featured on the pages of Vogue, GQ, Vanity Fair, Newsweek and People Magazine. He has also made many appearances on television shows including America’s Next Top Model and Dr. Phil. In public he is the photographer to the stars of Hollywood, but in private he has battled anxiety disorder and bouts of depression for much of his adult life. With the awareness that millions of people around the world struggle on a daily basis to understand and manage mental health conditions, Jerry has created The Mental Health Foundation. For many, their suffering is done alone and in silence because of the stigma surrounding mental health conditions. That needs to change. Over the years, Jerry has lost loved ones to addiction and suicide. He made the decision to no longer sit on the sidelines while so many suffer in deep dark silence, feeling misunderstood, alone and without options. Done waiting for reform to occur, Jerry has merged his own experiences fighting anxiety disorder and depression with his passion and life long career as a top-tier photographer to create The Mental Health Foundation. He has brought together medical, psychiatric, life coaching, mental health professionals and authors as a part of his foundation team.