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Dr. Lowenstein

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Since 1949, the United States has been observing Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental Health America (MHA) started the event with the purpose of raising awareness and educating people about mental illnesses. Today several organizations run campaigns throughout the month of May, with the green ribbon acting as the official international symbol of mental health awareness. With that in mind, it seems like a good time to take a closer look at some general facts and statistics about mental health. 

What is mental illness?

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) defines mental illness as a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling, behavior, or mood. The conditions can impact a person’s daily living and affect their ability to relate to others. While there are many different types of mental illness–each with its own symptoms–it’s important to keep in mind that recovery is possible for many people. 

How common is mental illness?

According to recent statistics from NAMI, 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year while 1 in 20 experience serious mental illness. If these statistics seem high, that could be because mental illness is a subject people often don’t feel comfortable talking about and instead keep it to themselves. 

What are some common symptoms of mental illness?

Although they may vary with each condition, common symptoms can include excessive worrying or fear, feeling especially sad, extreme mood changes, avoiding friends and social activities, strong feelings of irritability or anger, low energy, changes in sleeping or eating habits, difficulty perceiving reality, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, and a general inability to handle daily activities.

When young children develop a mental health condition, their symptoms tend to be more behavioral. This can range from a change in school performance to hyperactive behavior, nightmares, disobedience or aggression, temper tantrums, and more.

What are the most common types of mental illness?

While a rather large percentage of the population may experience symptoms of anxiety and depression, other types of mental illness include bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, psychosis, various eating disorders, and more.

How are young adults affected?

One in 6 U.S. youth aged 6 to 17 experience a mental health disorder each year. The onset of a mental illness often occurs during these years, with 50% of all lifetime mental illness beginning by age 14 and 75% by age 24.

In 2020, the first year of the global pandemic:

  • 1 in 6 adolescents experienced a major depressive episode
  • 3 million adolescents had serious thoughts of suicide
  • 1 in 5 adolescents and young adults reported that the pandemic had a significant negative impact on their mental health

How does mental illness affect families and communities?

Individuals with mental illness are affected in many ways, including an increased risk for diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. But families are impacted as well, primarily when they must care for a family member with mental illness. Finally, communities are affected by the resulting homelessness, disability, and increased hospitalizations that may occur.

During the month of May–and all throughout the year–it’s important to be aware of mental illness and how it impacts individuals, families, and communities. Look for signs that friends and loved ones may be experiencing symptoms. And be prepared to support them during the treatment and recovery process.

Image by Hannah Williams from Pixabay


Dr. David Lowenstein is a Columbus, Ohio-based psychologist with more than 35 years of experience. He conducts individual, family, and group therapy sessions in his German Village office and also via telehealth. Dr. Lowenstein is also available for expert forensic testimony, and for educational workshops and presentations. He is frequently called upon as an expert source for print, radio, and broadcast media. Contact Dr. Lowenstein at Lowenstein & Associates, 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.