May is Mental Health Awareness Month. When something is the subject of an “awareness month,” I’m usually pleased at first, because I’m excited to see something like mental health in the spotlight. But wait a second. Wouldn’t it be nice if mental health didn’t even need awareness campaigns? By definition, every single person has “mental health” in some degree, and therefore everyone has a vested interest in mental health prevention and treatment. It’s weird to me that something as ubiquitous as mental health needs more awareness. But indeed it does.

In my profession of physical therapy, for example, we have an interesting relationship with psychology and mental health. On one hand, there is evidence that psychological factors like fear have a huge impact on physical health. We even have screening measures that can predict long-term disability based purely on psychological factors. On the other hand, despite these findings,  physical therapy still has a psychology problem.

I’m finding that some of the problem may be due to the enduring stigma of mental illness. In an attempt to end the stigma of mental illness, my friend Sean Hagey approached Dave Reed and me to discuss Sean’s story and the importance of mental health. We ended up having a conversation that spanned four episodes on the Voice of the Patient. Our conversations taught me a lot about mental health and illness. It’s so powerful to hear about someone’s struggles, and it’s inspiring to see the amount of success and resilience of someone despite their struggles.

If you’re interested in hearing more about Sean’s story, then I encourage you to listen to the Mental Health Matters mini-series of the Voice of the Patient podcast.

  • In the first episode, Sean begins his story, sharing powerful experiences throughout his life.
  • In the second episode, we talk about Sean’s treatment, coping mechanisms, and progress despite challenging times.
  • In the third episode, we talk about the interplay between mental health and his relationships with friends and family.
  • In the fourth episode, we talk about the public perception of mental illness, within healthcare professions and outside of healthcare.

Sean Hagey approached the Voice of the Patient with the idea for this series and has asked that we help to eradicate mental health stigma. Sean wanted to tell his story to bring understanding of patients with mental illness or symptoms of mental illness. Sean is a home health physical therapist assistant in Kansas City, MO, and is the creator of GetPT1st. He recently started a new advocacy program for mental health, Mental Health Matters, which you can follow on Twitter @HopeForMH and on Facebook @HopeForMH. You can follow Sean on Twitter @SeanHagey. Sean has also written several powerful articles on The Mighty. We can continue the conversation and hear more questions from you on the Senior Rehab Project Facebook page by Dustin Jones.

As Sean mentioned in one of the podcasts, no matter how frustrated we are with the state of mental health treatment today, we have come a LONG way over the last few decades. I’m hopeful that we can make even more progress, maybe even to the point of no longer needing an “awareness month” for mental health. Until then, I hope we can keep the conversation going.