• Gracie Moore

The Importance of Advocacy and Awareness

Mental health plays a crucial role in how we behave, what we feel (physically and emotionally), and how we process our thoughts. Because mental health is an essential component of one’s overall wellbeing, it is crucial that as a society, we make conscious and consistent efforts to prioritize mental health. This prioritization of mental health can be done through service development, governmental policies, and legislation (though there are many more ways to do so) and such measures can significantly improve one’s standard of living.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five adults in the U.S. suffer from a form of mental illness. Because mental health has significant effects on the overall welfare of each individual, it is important that it is treated as seriously as physical health. Stigmas and taboos exist when there is a lack of understanding and education. Some misconceptions include believing those suffering from mental illness are “crazy”, “attention seeking”, or “mental”. While these beliefs are a result of faulty thinking and a lack of information, they largely dictate the ways in which mental health is treated and discussed throughout both the government and society. As reported by the American Psychiatric Association, the fear of being treated differently or losing one’s livelihood prevents more than half of those who are suffering from mental illness from seeking help.

Exclusion, discrimination, and stereotypes can make a subtle or obvious appearence. Regardless of how they manifest, misconceptions surrounding mental health can have devastating effects on those attempting to cope with mental illness. According to the American Psychiatric Association, these effects can include:

  • Reduced hope

  • Lower self-esteem

  • Increased psychiatric symptoms

  • Difficulties with social relationships

  • Reduced likelihood of staying with treatment

  • More difficulties at work

  • Internal or external shame

  • Reluctance to seek help or treatment and less likely to stay with treatment

  • Social isolation

  • Lack of understanding by family, friends, coworkers, or others

  • Fewer opportunities for work, school or social activities or trouble finding housing

  • Bullying, physical violence or harassment

  • Health insurance that doesn’t adequately cover your mental illness treatment

  • The belief that you’ll never succeed at certain challenges or that you can’t improve your situation

Exclusion, discrimination, and stereotypes can be the outcome of religious or cultural beliefs, racial bias, socioeconomic status, and internal/external shame — all of which can result in a lack of mental health resources in public spheres such as work or school environments, communities, and public health facilities. This lack of resources is seen in the unaffordable costs of mental health care through out-of-pocket payments, facetious attitudes and behaviors, lack of/poor care and conditions in psychiatric facilities, paternalism, difficulties with housing or employment, and violations of the human rights of person(s) suffering.

Effective ways of destigmatizing and eliminating misconceptions surrounding mental illness can include raising awareness and advocating for mental health. Awareness of mental health pertains to one’s knowledge of the topic and how it is socially and politically perceived and treated. Advocacy for mental health refers to the promotion of human rights of those with mental disorders, and providing accessible and affordable treatment.

Generally speaking, the realm of mental health embodies an essential part of our quality of life and health as a whole. Advocacy and awareness are crucial to our ability to take care of ourselves, and these skills help us to succeed in day-to-day life. Whether assisting others during a time of need or being able to express our own needs, advocacy is key to mental wellness. As stated by the World Health Organization, it is important that mental health is advocated for due to the fact that “Advocacy can lead to improvements in policy, legislation, and service development,” and has an immediate effect on one’s overall wellbeing.

While contributions to society at large and efforts in changing the national agenda can, at times, seem like the most important step in raising awareness and advocating for mental health — change starts with small, everyday actions. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, here are a few ways you can advocate for mental health on a personal level:

  • Support someone who needs help

  • Volunteer for a local mental health organization

  • Attend an awareness walk or other event benefiting the mental health movement

  • Encourage local politicians to prioritize mental health

  • Correct those who use stigmatizing language

Works Cited

“Advocacy .” World Health Organization , 2020,

Fuller, Kristen. “What Does It Mean to Be a Mental Health Advocate?” NAMI, 24 June 2020,

“The Importance of Mental Health Advocacy .” Park Center Recovery From Mental Illness, 6 Oct. 2020, .

“Mental Illness.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Jan. 2021,,mild%20to%20moderate%20to%20severe.

Stigma and Discrimination, Aug. 2020,

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