A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Advocates urge Kentuckians to wear green during Mental Health Awareness Month in May

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and across the Commonwealth, buildings are lighting up in green, the color for mental health awareness.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, in 2021 more than 43% of Kentucky adults reported symptoms of anxiety and depression, and 40,000 youths age 12 to 17 suffer from depression.

Marcie Timmerman, executive director of Mental Health America of Kentucky, explained free and private online screening tests available at mhascreening.org can help individuals check their mental health status.

“The screens are a great way to know where is your mental health? Are you in a place where you might need some extra help?” Timmerman said. “It also connects you with resources to help you get that extra help on your own.”

Timmerman encouraged all Kentuckians to wear green to show their support for mental health, and share photos on social media with the hashtag #mhaky. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 800 Kentuckians lost their lives to suicide in 2022.

Mary Malone, board president of Mental Health America-Kentucky and a retired nursing professor in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, said increasingly research shows it is critical to take care of mental health and stress with the urgency and attention given to physical health.

“We have no problem going to the doctor when there’s a problem with our heart or with diabetes, but we’re really hesitant when it comes to mental health issues,” Malone said.

Timmerman added communities are feeling the impacts of unaddressed mental health issues.

“Because not only is that person trying to get through their illness for other people who love them, work with them are around them or want to support them are also impacted,” she said.

According to the Kentucky Hospital Association, at the height of the pandemic in 2020, the percentage of emergency department visits for mental-health issues jumped by 53%, while overall visits declined.

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