Every day, Father Joe’s Villages’ staff encourage mental health awareness within the community, but our efforts are even more critical during Mental Health Awareness Month.

Mental Health Matters

Each May, mental health service providers across the country team up for Mental Health Awareness Month. Every day, Father Joe’s Villages’ staff encourages mental health awareness within the community, but our efforts are even more critical during Mental Health Awareness Month.

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Table of Contents


Mental Health Awareness Month – Break the Stigma

What is Mental Illness?

Prevalance of Mental Illness by Diagnosis
Source: https://www.nami.org/NAMI/media/NAMI-Media/Infographics/GeneralMHFacts.pdf

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), a mental illness is defined in two ways:

  • Any Mental Illness (AMI)– defined as a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder. AMI can vary in impact, ranging from no impairment to mild, moderate, and even severe impairment.
  • Serious Mental Illness (SMI)– defined as a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder resulting in serious functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. The burden of mental illnesses is particularly concentrated among those who experience disability due to SMI.

The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) estimates that at least 1 in 5 Americans are affected by mental illness every year. That means almost 20% of people will experience some form of mental illness at some point in their lives.

For those who are homeless or living on minimum wage, this rate goes up substantially. A 2015 assessment by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) found that 45% of people who are homeless in the United States have a mental illness.

At Father Joe’s Villages, 26% of adults served in Interim or Transitional Housing in 2019 reported having a long-term physical or mental health disability.

What are the Challenges of Living with Mental Health?

Adults Experiencing Mental Illness in a Given Year
Source: https://www.nami.org/NAMI/media/NAMI-Media/Infographics/GeneralMHFacts.pdf

Living with a mental health condition makes everyday tasks—like going to work, spending time with friends, and getting out of bed in the morning—more difficult. Homelessness and the stress that comes along with it only exacerbate those challenges.

For our neighbors living on the streets, the stress that comes with homelessness can both manifest and exacerbate mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. These conditions can make everyday tasks overwhelming, and achieving a better life seems like an unreachable dream. 

However, proper tools and support can help individuals living with a mental health condition live healthy and self-sufficient lives. Specialized programs, such as the Behavioral Health, Substance-Use Disorder Treatment, and Psychiatric mental health services offered through our Village Health Center in San Diego, can help provide the resources individuals need to manage their mental health symptoms instead of having their symptoms manage them.

With the right therapy and professional help, the results can be powerful. As one of our Licensed Behavioral Health Clinicians recounted:

“A man once told me that after participating in weekly therapy sessions, gaining insight into his mental health symptoms and learning coping skills to better manage those symptoms, he was able to take public transportation for the first time in years and he was able to think about a better future which he hoped would include employment.”

What are the Benefits of Mental Health Awareness Month?

Mental health is a topic that people tend to avoid.

Many don’t want to talk about it because they’re ashamed of having mental health issues, or they fear being judged by others. But the fact of the matter is that struggling with mental health symptoms is actually quite common—especially for people experiencing poverty and homelessness.

Mental health awareness not only encourages compassion and empathy within the community, but it can also help those struggling with mental illness understand that they are valuable and that help is available to them.

The fact is: no one chooses to live with a mental health condition. The important thing is that we understand that mental illness is a disease and that individuals struggling with mental health conditions can receive care and support. Mental Health Month reminds us to advocate for people living with mental health conditions and express to those who are struggling most that they are not alone.

Behavioral Health Clinician, Brandon, highlights this particular benefit of awareness:

“People readily obtain care for physical ailments such as diabetes or cancer but feel shame around seeking help for illnesses such as depression or anxiety, even though these disorders also have physiological underpinnings. Building awareness for mental health can combat this stigma and help people understand that mental illness is no one’s fault nor is it a sign of character weakness. It is my hope that seeking treatment for mental illness will someday be viewed as a source of strength within our culture rather than a source of shame.”

Mental health awareness allows all of San Diego to thrive by fostering each individual’s ability to have healthy relationships, contribute to the community, and participate in a productive community.

How Does Father Joe’s Villages Help People with Mental Health Conditions?

Mental Illness Treatment in America
Source: https://www.nami.org/NAMI/media/NAMI-Media/Infographics/GeneralMHFacts.pdf

At Father Joe’s Villages, we believe that people who are experiencing homelessness and living with mental health challenges deserve dignity and access to care. That’s why we offer specialized programs through our Village Health Center that provide the resources individuals need to manage their mental health symptoms.

In 2021, the Village Health Center delivered nearly 5,000 behavioral health services including: 

  • Individual and group therapy 
  • Substance-use disorder treatment 
  • Medication assisted treatment 
  • Psychiatric services

The behavioral health programs offered through the Village Health Center provide people who are experiencing homelessness and mental health conditions the resources they need to live happy, self-sufficient lives.

What You Can Do During Mental Health Awareness Month?

  • Open up dialogues with family, friends, and co-workers
  • Advocate for mental health awareness
  • Speak up against discrimination of people living with mental illness
  • Donate time or money to an organization supporting behavioral health
  • Extend an open ear, hand, and heart to those experiencing mental illness
  • Learn more about mental health in the U.S.
  • Support organizations that offer mental health resources
  • Prioritize your mental health and wellness
    • Sleep well nightly
    • Have a nutrient-rich diet
    • Reduce your consumption of processed foods, sugars, and alcohol
    • Exercise
    • Mindfulness
    • Have “me-time” or add self-care to your schedule
    • Doing things you enjoy

Bottom Line on Breaking the Stigma Around Mental Health

Mental Health Awareness Month may come only once a year, but for people who live with difficult mental health symptoms or love people struggling with mental illness, Mental Health Awareness Month is every month.

To lighten the load for those who already may have too much to carry, consider donating your time, money, and political voice to dismantle the stigma around mental health.