(WUSA9) -- May is Mental Health Awareness month. It's a chance to put the often misunderstood health condition in the limelight by talking about the symptoms and treatments.
Dr. Wayne Lindstrom, CEO of Mental Health America, says "there's never been a better time to talk about mental health."
"Well, it's in some ways like the perfect storm. We're certainly aware of the mass shooting tragedies that we've experienced in this country which has brought this, I think, to the forefront of the consciousness of this country.
And there's still so much stigma associated with this disorder as much as we want to decouple violence from mental health because the reality is that those that are mentally ill are much more likely to be victims of violence than perpetuating it. So there's been an opportunity really to have conversations around mental health that ordinarily were not so much in the public eye because there is so much shame and stigma," said Lindstrom.
We just reported earlier that Catherine Zeta-Jones is going back into a facility for treatment of her bipolar disorder and she did not want to be the poster person for mental health. She wanted to keep it private. Lindstrom talked to us about how the stigma prevents people from getting the help they need.
"...we think somehow the mentally ill are different, that this is associated with a weakness in one's character, that somehow people are different. It's 'we versus them.' We keep people stigmatized. The reality is mental health is a continuum that any one of us over the course of our life can traverse back and forth.
If you or I, for example, got a call from a loved one that was just in a severe automobile accident, we would have an emotional accident. If they died in that automobile accident, we would have grief. Some of us will struggle with ever resolving that grief without professional help. So the reality is there is no health without mental health and this needs to be seen as a legitimate health condition just like any other," said Lindstrom.
At mha.org, there is a calendar of what to do during the month of May, ways to get around the stress and relieve the symptoms. There is also an online test that deals with post-traumatic stress, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety. Lindstrom will be talking more about this in June at an event.