May is Mental Health Awareness Month

May 10, 2022

Courtney Dunkerton, NCCASA Human Trafficking Program Coordinator

This month we have the opportunity to support survivors with mental health needs by raising awareness, fighting stigma, and supporting efforts that promote mental wellness. We can also provide greater access to information about hotlines, local mental health service providers and services that contribute to mental wellness. We can also support practices and policies within our organizations that promote mental wellness not only for survivors but also employees.


However, even with all the existing and emerging information on the prevalence and impact of mental illness, a great deal of stigma remains in our US culture. We have the opportunity to educate others in our collective networks and relationships that mental illness does not originate in individual choices or failures. 


Understanding the prevalence of mental health needs is a way to reduce stigma around mental illness. Here are some numbers from The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)’s Infographics: Mental Health By the Numbers:


  • 1 in 5 US adults experience mental illness
  • 1 in 20 US adults experience serious mental illness
  • 17% of youth (6-17 years) experience a mental health disorder
  • 1 in 5 young people report that the pandemic had a significant negative impact on their mental health
  • 70% of youth in the juvenile justice system have diagnosable mental health conditions
  • About 2 in 5 people who are incarcerated have a history of mental illness
  • 66% of women in prison reported having a history of mental illness
  • Among incarcerated people with a mental health conditions, non-white individuals are moer liely to be held in solitary continemenst, be injured and stay longer in jail
  • Overall suicide rate in the US has increased by 35% since 1999
  • Suicide in the 10th leading cause of death in the US and the 2nd leading cause of death  among people aged 10-34 in the US


Most importantly, we must center the significant mental health needs among marginalized communities:


  • Latina immigrants meet the threshold for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis at nearly four times (34%) the rate of civilian women in America overall (9.7%)


  • Research suggests that LGBTQ+ individuals face health disparities linked to societal stigma, discrimination, and denial of their civil and human rights. Discrimination against LGBTQ+ persons has been associated with high rates of psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and suicide.




    • Despite rates being less than the overall U.S. population, major depressive episodes increased from 9 percent-10.3 percent in Black and African American youth ages 12-17, 6.1 percent to 9.4 percent in young adults 18-25, and 5.7 percent to 6.3 percent in the 26-49 age range between 2015 and 2018.
    • Black and African American people living below poverty are twice as likely to report serious psychological distress than those living over 2x the poverty level. 
  • Adult Blacks and African Americans are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than adult whites. 
  • Blacks and African Americans are less likely than white people to die from suicide at all ages. [8] However, Black and African American teenagers are more likely to attempt suicide than White teenagers (9.8 percent v. 6.1 percent).


Survivors of sexual abuse need mental health support. The research from “Sexual abuse and lifetime diagnosis of psychiatric disorders: systematic review and meta-analysis.” Mayo Clinic proceedings vol. 85,7 (2010): 618-29, concludes that “a history of sexual abuse is associated with an increased risk of a lifetime diagnosis of multiple psychiatric disorders.” According to the research, these diagnoses  included anxiety disorder, depression, eating disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sleep disorders, and suicide attempts.


Provide information on:


May is a great time to focus on creating more equitable access to resources and information that support wellness for the whole person. Mental health is a key part of that support.