What is Mental Health Month 2024? Learn, Act, Advocate

Mental health concept illustration of human head with flowers
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In the U.S. in 2024, May is Mental Health Month (MHM).

Every year since 1949, local, state, and national organizers work together to host this important awareness movement during the month of May. MHA was founded by Mental Health America (MHA), who now collaborate with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the Substance Abuse and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), and other public and private agencies nationwide.

This year, the theme MHM is one we can relate to:

“Where to Start: Mental Health in a Changing World”

We can relate because with so much going on in the world, and so many new developments in mental health and mental health treatment, sometimes it’s hard – even for treatment professionals – to know exactly where to start.

This year’s theme leads directly to the action steps the organizers at MHA, NAMI, and SAMHSA want us all to take this year to raise awareness around mental health, mental health treatment, and mental health related issues during mental health month:

  1. Learn how the various aspects of our daily life affect our mental health
  2. Act so we can learn the skills we need to tolerate stress, manage our emotions, and navigate challenging psychological and emotional situations in a healthy and productive manner
  3. Advocate for increased awareness about mental health, access to mental health treatment, and reducing stigma in your community

In this article, we’ll talk about how we can all do our part for Mental Health Month 2024. One thing we know is true: when we work together toward a common goal – like raising awareness about mental health – we can accomplish amazing things. Before we talk about how we can all help, though, we’ll take a moment to review the current state of mental health, overall, in the U.S.

Mental Health in the U.S.: The Big Picture

We all understand that since March 2020, mental health has been in the news for many reasons. The obvious thing to mention is the pandemic. In the beginning, every mental health professional in the country warned that worry about getting sick, grief over the death of loved ones, and the consequences of mitigation measures like social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and virtual work and school could have a negative impact.

They expected increases in depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders, as well as increases in alcohol and substance use disorder (ADU/SUD). And they were right. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and other sources showed increases in mental health diagnoses and AUD/SUD diagnoses in 2020. Mental health diagnoses decreased in 2021, but rates of AUD and SUD continued to increase.

In addition, before the pandemic, two public health issues were front and center: the increase in suicide, particularly among young people, and the opioid crisis, which has claimed over a million lives in the U.S. since 1999.

This is the background context for where we are now – and that’s without mentioning the youth mental health crisis and the loneliness epidemic identified by the Surgeon General of the United States in two consecutive public health advisories: Protecting Youth Mental Health (2021) and Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation (2023).

When the top medical official in the country sees fit to publish two public advisories over as many years, it means we should pay attention – and participate in Mental Health Month to help promote our overall health and wellness nationwide.

Mental Health: How Are We Doing?

Every year the National Institutes of Health, in partnership with the University of Michigan, conduct the National Survey on Drug Use and Health – the NSDUH – to help policymakers, treatment providers, and the general public understand our current situation with regard to mental health disorders, addiction, and various topics related to mental health and addiction.

We retrieved the data below from the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2022 NSDUH). We shared the same sets of data from the 2021 NSDUH in our MHA 2023 article. We’ll point out the differences between 2021 and 2022 where we have like data to compare. After we share this information, we’ll talk about the steps we can all take to raise awareness during mental health month.

We’ll start with the latest facts and figures on mental illness.

Any Mental Illness (AMI)

  • Adults 18+: 23.1% (59.2 million)
    • Received treatment: 50.6% (29.9 million)
  • 18-25: 36.2% (12.5 million)
    • Received treatment: 49.1% (6.1 million)
  • 26-49: 29.4% (30.1 million)
    • Received treatment: 50% (15.1 million)
  • 50+: 13.9% (16.5 million)
    • Received treatment: 52.7% (8.7 million)

There’s good news here. Rates of mental illness increased by only 0.1 percent from 2021, but overall treatment rates increased by close to 6 percent.

Serious Mental Illness (SMI)

  • Adults 18+: 6.0 % (15.3 million)
    • Received treatment: 66.7% (10.2 million)
  • 18-25: 11.6 % (4.0 million)
    • Received treatment: 61.4% (2.4 million)
  • 26-49: 7.6 % (7.8 million)
    • Received treatment: 4% (5.2 million)
  • 50+: 3.0 % (3.5 million)
    • Received treatment: 71.0% (2.5 million)

There’s also good news here. Overall rates of SMI among adults did not increase, but rates of treatment – like rates for AMI – increased by 6 percent.

Next, we’ll look at the data on a phenomenon we encounter every day: co-occurring disorders.

When Mental Health and Alcohol/Substance Use Disorders Meet: Co-Occurring Disorders

If a patient receives a diagnosis for the disordered use of alcohol or substances and a mental health disorder at the same time, they receive a dual diagnosis for co-occurring disorders. It’s common for people with a mental health disorder to self-medicate with alcohol or substances, which can lead to AUD or SUD, and it’s also common for people with AUD or SUD to develop mental health disorders, influenced by chronic, severe alcohol or drug use.

Like the facts and figures above, we retrieved this data from the 2022 NSDUH.

Co-occurring Disorders: Any Mental Illness (AMI), Serious Mental Illness (SMI), and SUD

  • Adults with AMI and SUD:
    • 18+: 8.4% (21.5 million people)
    • 18-25: 15.1% (5.2 million people)
    • 26-49: 11.4% (11.6 million people)
    • 50+: 3.9% (4.6 million people)
  • Among adults with AMI and SUD:
    • 59.1% received treatment of some kind
    • 37.9% only received mental health treatment
    • 17% received mental health and SUD treatment
    • 41% received no treatment at all
  • Adults with SMI and SUD:
    • 18+: 2.9% (7.4 million people)
    • 18-25: 6.0% (2.1 million people)
    • 26-49: 3.7% (3.8 million people)
    • 50+: 1.3% (1.5 million people)
  • Among adults with SMI and SUD:
    • 71.2% received treatment of some kind
    • 45% only received mental health treatment
    • 24% received mental health and SUD treatment
    • 28.8% received no treatment at all

There’s also promising news in this data. Across the board, in all categories, the percentage of people with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorder who received treatment increased between 2021 and 2022. That’s an important development – and it’s the reason we do our part to raise awareness about mental health and mental health/addiction treatment during mental health month.

Mental Health, Alcohol Use Disorder, and Suicide

We mention the upward trend in suicide deaths among young people widely reported by media before the pandemic. That’s of significant concern, as is the relationship between suicidality, mental health, and substance use. Combined AUD/SUD and mental health disorders increase suicide risk, and in 2022, the NSDUH survey included questions on the impact of alcohol and substance use on suicidal behavior.

Consider these statistics:

AUD and Suicidality: 2022

  • Serious thoughts of suicide, total population: 5.2% (13.2 million)
    • Serious thoughts of suicide, people with AUD: 11.8% (3.4 million)
  • Made a suicide plan, total population: 1.5% (3.7 million)
    • Made a suicide plan, people with AUD: 4.1% (1.1 million)
  • Attempted suicide, total population: 0.6% (1.6 million)
    • Attempted suicide, people with AUD: 1.8% (518,000)

The data clearly show the presence of AUD increases risk of suicidality. People with AUD had thoughts of suicide at twice the rate of people without AUD, people with AUD made suicide plans at almost three times the rate of people without AUD, and people with AUD attempted suicide at exactly three times the rate of people without AUD.

What We Can Do: Mental Health Month 2024

Let’s revisit the theme for this year:

“Where to Start: Mental Health in a Changing World”

And the goals are to Learn, Act, and Advocate. We’ll review what you can do, starting with advocacy and working back to learning.


To advocate for mental health during MHM, please navigate to the Mental Health America website, choose the Mental Health Month page, and download the Where to Start Toolkit. You can share social media posts, encourage your school or workplace to participate, and join the Be Seen in Green Challenge to show your commitment to mental health awareness.


To take care of your own mental health, you need to take proactive steps, i.e. you need to act. First, establish a self-care routine that includes healthy food, adequate sleep, plenty of exercise and activity, and regular social contact with people who help you relax and recharge. Second, check yourself for signs and symptoms of mental health disorders, substance use disorders, or co-occurring disorders. Finally, if you identify symptoms in yourself and think you need professional support, we encourage you to arrange a full mental health/addiction assessment administered by a mental health professional.


For MHM 2024, the advocates art MHA hope we all take the time to understand the factors in our life – aside from things like genetics, trauma, and relationships – that may have a negative impact on our mental health. These include:

  • Current events, which can increase our overall levels of stress and disrupt our wellbeing.
  • Technology, which can bring us closer together, but can also degrade overall wellbeing by over-exposure to negative information, unhealthy social media use, and a decrease in real, in-person, face-to-face interaction.
  • Loneliness, which is associated with increased rates of anxiety, depression, and AUD/SUD. In addition, recent evidence – in the Surgeon General’s Advisory – indicates loneliness can decrease our life expectancy, and have as significant an impact on our health as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
  • Social and Environmental Factors, which refer to the social determinants of health (SDOH), a group of factors the S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) define as “…the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.”

Resources for Mental Health and Addiction Support

It’s important to remember we are not alone. If any of us – ourselves, friends, loved ones, anyone – has a mental health problem or substance use problem, we need to understand that effective, evidence-based support is available.

People seeking a therapist, counselor, or psychiatrist for an evaluation can use these resources:

For emergency support – i.e. you or someone you know/love is in crisis right now – these resources are available:

  • The 988 emergency line is a 24/7 phone line to call in case of a mental health emergency, including an overdose crisis.
  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) supports people in need of addiction treatment resources, and can connect people to support in drug-related emergencies.
  • Trevor Project Help Line at 1-866-488-7386 offers specialized support for members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

We’ll end with this reminder: treatment works! The sooner a person with a mental health or alcohol-/substance use disorder gets the help they need, the better the outcome.

The materials provided on the Pinnacle Blog are for information and educational purposes only. No behavioral health or any other professional services are provided through the Blog and the information obtained through the Blog is not a substitute for consultation with a qualified health professional. If you are in need of medical or behavioral health treatment, please contact a qualified health professional directly, and if you are in need of emergency help, please go to your nearest emergency room or dial 911.