April 26, 2023

Mental Health Month encourages individuals to look around, look within

May has been observed as Mental Health Month since 1949 by Mental Health America and its affiliates. This year, MHA encourages individuals to “look around and look within” to acknowledge the many factors that come into play regarding mental health, including neighborhood, environment, genetics and more. 

According to MHA, the conditions of where a person is born, lives, learns, works, plays and gathers, as well as their economic stability and social connections, are part of what is called “social determinants of health.” The more these factors work in a person’s favor, the more likely the person is to have better mental well-being. However, when it seems like the world is working against a person, their mental health can suffer.

While many parts of an individual’s environment can be out of their control, there are steps that can be taken to change their space and protect their behavioral health. MHA recommends the following:

  • Work toward securing safe and stable housing: This can be challenging due to finances, age and other reasons, but there are a few things that individuals can try, such as reaching out to state or local agencies to secure housing, removing safety hazards in the home or finding another space with the comforts of home.
  • Focus on the home environment: Consider keeping space tidy, sleep-friendly and well ventilated. Individuals should surround themselves with items that help them feel calm and positive.
  • Create bonds with the neighborhood and community: Get to know the people living next door or nearby; join or start neighbors-helping-neighbors groups.
  • Connect with nature: Hike in the woods or a forest, sit in a park, bring a plant inside or keep the shades open to absorb natural light.

Mental health screenings

Taking a mental health test is the easiest way for someone to look within and check on their mental health.

According to MHA, the delays in treatment for mental health conditions are longer than for many other health conditions. Getting screened increases the chances of getting treatment. MHA has free, anonymous and scientifically validated mental health screens. Screening results can be used to start a conversation with a primary care provider or a trusted friend or family member, and individuals can begin to plan a course of action for addressing their mental health concerns and needs. 

Risk factors for mental health conditions include:

  • Trauma, which can be a one-time event or ongoing
  • Environment and how it impacts an individual’s health and quality of life (also known as social determinants of health, like financial stability and health care access)
  • Genetics
  • Brain chemistry
  • Habits and lifestyle such as a lack of sleep

Individuals may have a more difficult time understanding the risk factors for mental health conditions for themselves. MHA recommends that people take the time to ask themselves about their thoughts, feelings and behaviors to see if this is part of a pattern that may be caused by a mental health condition.

Here are some questions to get started:

  • Have things that used to feel easy started feeling difficult?
  • Does the idea of doing daily tasks like making your bed now feel really, really hard?
  • Have you lost interest in activities and hobbies you used to enjoy?
  • Do you feel irritated, possibly to the point of lashing out at people you care about?

Having a widespread understanding of the topic can help someone be more informed if they or someone they know is experiencing a mental health condition or crisis. While one in five people will experience a mental illness during their lifetime, everyone faces challenges in life that can impact their behavioral health.

Resources from MHA

Reports and tools available from MHA include:

  • State of Mental Health in America Report 2023: The report is intended to provide up-to-date data and information about disparities faced by individuals with mental health challenges and serve as a tool for change. The report can be downloaded here.
  • Mapping the Mental Health of Our Communities: The largest database of its kind – geographical analysis from MHA screenings taken from millions of MHA’s free, anonymous screenings shown in near real time. Explore the data here
  • Our Future in Mind Toolkit: The toolkit is for those who want to become an advocate for mental health. Our Future in Mind is a two-day mental health summit hosted by MHA and IDONTMIND, featuring conversations from mental health experts. “How to become a mental health advocate in 7 steps” is the toolkit guide available for reference.

Online articles available from MHA cover a wide range of categories and topics, including:

Additional mental health resources

To assist faculty and staff

Faculty and staff can review the Mental Health Resources webpage for a variety of available resources, which support the behavioral health pillar of the Healthy Boiler Program as well as information on Purdue’s health plan coverage for mental health and substance abuse. 

To assist students

Faculty and staff who work with students or have a student at home can direct them to the resources below for behavioral health assistance. Note: United Healthcare Student Resources (UHCSR) — medical plan provider for students and graduate students — offers 292 unique mental health providers serving at various locations that are in-network with UHCSR within Tippecanoe County. The list is available here. Additionally, students have access to HealthiestYou, which provides virtual access to mental health care as part of UHCSR’s plan. All services are free for students covered under the UHCSR insurance plan.   

Office of the Dean of Students

Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS)


Any questions regarding benefits coverage and/or mental health resources available to faculty, staff and dependents can be directed to Human Resources at hr@purdue.edu, HRHelp (secure email) or by phone at 765-494-2222 and toll-free at 877-725-0222. 

More information about Mental Health Month 2023 can be found here.

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