May Is Mental Health Awareness Month

May 1, 2023, 10:11 am | Todd Stevens

Two men talking together by, Iowa - May is Mental Health Awareness Month, an important time to talk about psychological and emotional wellbeing. The purpose of this specially designated month – recognized in the United States since 1949 – is to increase understanding and reduce stigma about mental health conditions and challenges, according to Todd Stevens, a human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

“Many of us are concerned about the mental health of our family, friends, coworkers and even strangers,” said Stevens, who specializes in family wellbeing.

Statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness show that

  • 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year.
  • 1 in 20 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year.
  • 1 in 6 U.S. youth age 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year.
  • 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people age 10-14. 

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach offers several mental health programs and resources to educate and inform Iowans.

Question. Persuade. Refer. is a suicide prevention and education program that teaches participants how to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to question, persuade and refer someone to help. A list of upcoming program locations is available online.

Mental Health First Aid teaches participants how to help someone who is developing a mental health problem (such as depression or a substance abuse disorder), has an existing mental health condition that is getting worse, or could be experiencing a mental health crisis. A list of upcoming program locations is available online,

Iowa Concern Hotline  – Call 800-447-1985 for 24/7 access to stress counselors and an attorney for legal education, as well as information and referral services for a wide variety of topics. You can also visit the Iowa Concern website to live chat with a stress counselor one-on-one in a secure environment.

Farm Stress and Mental Health is available for free download from the Extension Store. This fact sheet is designed to help agricultural advocates respond to someone in crisis with support and resources.

“Mental Health Matters!” publications from the Extension Store are designed to provide information on youth mental health. They include activities that young people can do to gain skills related to their mental and physical wellbeing.

Encouraging a Friend to Seek Professional Help examines how loss, grief or depression can immobilize a person, making it hard for the individual to look realistically at a situation or to act. It’s important for friends or family members not to ignore signs that the person needs help.

“The Iowa State University Extension and Outreach mental health team works to increase awareness about mental health challenges and reduce the related stigma,” Stevens said.

For more information about mental health, resources and training, visit

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