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May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Caroline Zakarian, Librarian, Lifelong Learning Department,
Mental Health spelled out with wood scrabble tiles

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Started in 1949, this year marks the 70th anniversary of the month where many national organizations such as Mental Health America, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health raise awareness about the importance of mental health and educate the public about mental illness.

One of the early proponents of mental health was Clifford W. Beers. Born in 1876 and Yale-educated, Beers suffered severe episodes of depression and anxiety. He was confined to various state and private mental institutions where he witnessed and experienced abuse and maltreatment. From these experiences, he set forth to reform mental health care. In 1908 he published his autobiography, A Mind That Found Itself, which drew a practical view of mental illness and drew attention to the terrible conditions at mental institutions. Then, in 1909 he founded the National Committee Mental Health America. Mental Health America is the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit devoted to helping all individuals achieve wellness by living mentally healthier lives. To symbolize its mission of change, in 1953 Mental Health America commissioned the casting of the Mental Health Bell from the chains and shackles that restrained people from decades past. This organization even provides toolkits with materials and ideas for conducting awareness activities.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), here are some current mental health facts:

  • 1 in 5 adults in the United States lives with a mental health condition.
  • 60 million people in the United States face the day-to-day reality of living with a mental illness.
  • The best treatments for serious mental illnesses today are highly effective; between 70% and 90% of individuals have a significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with the right treatments and support.

People with mental health conditions often face bullying, rejection, and discrimination. This can make their road to recovery longer and more difficult. The library provides support services to people experiencing mental health conditions through our programming and partners, such as a NAMI Family Support Group that meets twice a month at the Brentwood Branch Library. This is a caring group of individuals helping one another by using their lived experiences and wisdom. Family members can achieve a renewed sense of hope for their loved one living with mental health challenges.

Another important service the library provides is the Source. The library partners with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (DMH) to provide this monthly event. The Source, which includes many social service partners, is also featured at several branch locations, check the Source page for details. Since the Source’s inception at Central Library in 2016, over 900 individuals have been provided mental health services at all of the Source locations.

DMH also conducts Coffee & Conversation, a support group where people can talk about whatever topic they would like in a safe and friendly environment while enjoying a cup of coffee. Mental health resources, housing information, snacks, and refreshments are provided.


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