National Mental Health Counseling
Week—CMHCs Are the Focus of
By Kathleen McCarthy
Many mental-health-related events fall in May, which Mental Health
America declared 65 years ago is “Mental Health Month.”
“We are not Psychiatrists, Psychologists, or Social Workers. We are, proudly, Mental Health Counselors,” proclaims the website of AMHCA’s Maine chapter, the Maine Mental Health Counselors Association (MEMHCA).
“Counselor training time isn’t taken up with medication management (Psychiatry), the conduct of research (Psychology), or advocacy and public policy (Social Work). These are very fine things, but they aren’t psychotherapy. Counselor preparation remains focused on psychotherapeutic competence.”
And May is the month to celebrate the distinction of being clinical mental health counselors. May is Mental Health Month, and among the special designations in May is National Mental Health Counseling Week, which this year is being observed May 5–11.
AMHCA Activities Related to Celebrating National Mental Health Counseling Week
Each year AMHCA’s encourages state chapters and members to raise awareness of the importance of mental health by focusing on mental health at home, in the community, in the military, at school, and in the workplace. AMHCA encourages chapter leaders to contact their mayor’s office and governor’s office to request that they sign a proclamation recognizing National Mental Health Counseling Week and the importance of good mental health.
AMHCA members can also contact their local newspapers, radio stations, and online media and offer to write a column or blog about the importance of mental health. Tips on resolving conflicts with colleagues at work, reducing stress, improving communication with family members, and the importance of self-care are all topics that would interest many readers. Here are some more suggestions from AMHCA for promoting mental health at home and in school settings.
Suggested Activities for Promoting Mental Health in the Home (excerpted):
- Help family members stay in good physical health by maintaining a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.
- Encourage everyone (including adults) to participate in play—indoors and out.
- Discuss the importance of open communication and the need to express love, trust, and understanding at home.
- Suggest ways that parents can help their children develop resilience to help them cope with challenges and solve problems in healthy ways.
Suggested Activities for Promoting Mental Health in School Settings (excerpted):
Approach school counselors and ask if they would like to work with a licensed mental health counselor to plan a way to celebrate National Mental Health Counseling Week.
Topics could include relaxation for children or young adults, anger-management skills, socialization skills, self-esteem, and family issues. Possible activities could include reading a story to the students about an important issue and discussing it with the class, or teaching a class for parents on a topic such as parenting strategies with difficult kids, when to worry about your child, and how to recognize the signs of substance abuse and find help.
On college campuses, you might ask the administration if you can plan a Wellness Week, focusing on a different aspect of mental health each day. Or if, as a professional counselor, you could lead a discussion about topics such as trauma, DBT, self-care, the importance of study breaks, nutrition, the best study techniques to retain information, stress relief, and test anxiety.
Graduate Student Committee Activities
This year, on each day of National Mental Health Counseling Week (NMHCW), the GSC will be posting a blurb about a mental health topic on AMHCA’s graduate student Facebook page.
Topics will include military suicide, LGBT concerns, depression, children and adolescents, and PTSD (not veteran-specific).
The GSC is also hosting a virtual 5k run/walk to mark NMHCW. The virtual 5k involves no fundraising, no time restriction, and no sweat—unless you want it to. Students (and others) who make the time to run or walk during National Mental Health Counseling Week are invited to submit their photos and times to the GSC at firstname.lastname@example.org.. The GSC will post the photos and times on its Facebook page and in the June issue of The Advocate.
The run/walk is intended to be fun, free, and easy to participate in. For more information, email GSC Chair April Krowel at email@example.com.
May Is Mental Health Month
National Mental Health Counseling Week is just one week of a month-long focus on mental health. For the past 65 years, Mental Health America (MHA) has been promoting “May Is Mental Health Month,” which it created to raise awareness about mental illnesses and the importance of mental wellness for all.
This year, MHS has two objectives to help communicate the idea that mental wellness is central to overall health and well-being:
- Raise awareness about the importance of a healthy lifestyle and its preventive factors and benefits for mind and body.
- Build broad public recognition around the role of mental health to overall health.
One of the materials in its toolkit, which can be downloaded at no charge, is a calendar for the month of May that lists one idea each day for enhancing mental health. Here’s a sampling:
- May 1: Swap your normal cup of coff-ee for decaf—reducing caff-eine intake supports sleep. People who get enough sleep are more likely to succeed at their daily tasks.
- May 5: Switch up your daily routine. Take a di-fferent way to work or try a new food. Trying new things can open your mind to making bigger lifestyle changes.
- May 9: Remember an achievement from the past to remind yourself that you have the potential for success. This can help reduce feelings of insecurity and lower stress.
- May 17: Hold doors open for people. Research shows that those who consistently help others experience less depression and better health.
- May 24: Call or email a good friend. Studies have found that the diff-erence between happy and unhappy individuals comes in the form of good relationships.
- May 28: Make a point to smile and say “good morning” to neighbors and co-workers. Even little gestures can make someone else’s day better and benefit your own mood.
For more information about May Is Mental Health Month and info on downloading the toolkit and calendar/poster, visit Mental Health America.
A Profession on the Cusp of Growing Demand
The future looks bright for clinical mental health counseling, which has been around for almost 40 years. One of AMHCA’s co-founders, James Messina, PhD, NCC, CCMHC, in a 2013 presentation to AMHCA’s Utah chapter, noted that the first state law licensing mental health counselors was passed in Florida in 1981.
Now all 50 states license clinical mental health counselors, and there are more than 120,000 licensed professional counselors. (In comparison, Messina cites about 55,000 licensed marriage and family therapists and about 200,000 licensed clinical social workers.)
Now an assistant professor at Troy University Tampa Bay Site, Messina sees a growing need for CMHCs for three reasons:
- The provisions of the Affordable Care Act (healthcare reform), which will greatly increase the number of people who have insurance coverage for mental health issues;
- The aging of the baby boomers, and their needs
- for geriatric mental health services; and
- The large number of military service members who are returning from deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan with mental health challenges.
Though National Mental Health Counseling Week lasts only a few days, members of the profession provides a valuable service every week of the year.
“Sometimes only those who have been served by someone in the counseling profession can attest to the important role that counselors play,” according to the blog of AMHCA’s North Carolina Chapter, the Licensed Professional Counselors Association of North Carolina (LPCANC). “The truth is that almost everyone either knows someone who needs to see a counselor, who is seeing a counselor, or who needs a counselor himself.”
Check out a list of additional May mental-health related observances.