NJM Blog

Spotlight on Mental Health Awareness

Spotlight on Mental Health Awareness

Almost 53 million U.S. adults (1 in 5) experienced mental illness in 2020. Additionally, 15% of U.S. youth suffered a major depressive episode in 2021. Early diagnosis and treatment can make a difference. It's also important for family members to recognize the signs of mental illness and know how to support a loved one suffering from it.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to recognize and reflect on the importance of mental health. The statistics are sobering.

Mental Health by the Numbers

  • The risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases is 40% higher for people with depression than for the rest of the public

  • Nearly one–third of adults with mental illness also used drugs

  • Dropout rates are more than double for high school students with depression symptoms

  • The odds are three times greater that a student (ages 6–17) with mental, emotional, or behavioral issues will repeat a grade

Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness

Hospitals and health systems play an essential role in providing behavioral health care and helping patients find resources available in their community. Yet less than half of adults struggling with mental illness receive the treatment they need.

What are the signs?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, signs of mental illness include:

  • Excessive worrying

  • Problems concentrating

  • Extreme mood changes

  • Irritability or anger

  • Alienation from friends

  • Changes in sleep or eating habits

  • Persistent sadness or feelings of hopelessness

If you're a parent of an adolescent or have an adult family member exhibiting warning signs, getting an accurate diagnosis from a mental health professional is an essential first step. Your family doctor can assist you in finding one.

What can you do?

  • Learn the warning signs of emotional distress and suicide

  • Stay positive and engage affected loved ones in supportive dialogue

  • Treat affected children and adults with compassion, respect, and understanding

  • Help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health by acknowledging it is a disease

  • Join a support group for family members of people with mental illness

Where can you get help?

The National Institute of Mental Health provides a list of organizations to contact for help.

If you or someone you know is in a crisis, get help immediately. You can call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1–800–273–TALK (8255). (Note: Effective July 2022, this number will change to a three–digit number — 988)


  1. National Alliance on Mental Health nami.org

  2. National Institute of Mental Health nimh.nih.gov