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The Joint Commission Releases New Public Education Campaign During Mental Health Awareness Month in May

Campaign Provides Signs and Symptoms of Mental Illness, as Well as Ways to Receive Help and Advocate for Care Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Media Contact:

Katie Bronk
Corporate Communications
(630) 792-5175

(OAKBROOK TERRACE, Illinois, May 17, 2023) – More than one in five adults in the United States live with a mental illness (57.8 million in 2021), according to the National Institute of Mental Health. During this May’s Mental Health Awareness Month, The Joint Commission has released a new public education campaign, Speak Up™ For Your Mental Health, to help consumers understand the signs and symptoms of mental illness, as well as how they can receive help and advocate for their care.

Mental health is as important as physical health. Just as physical illnesses need to be treated, so do depression and other mental health issues. Mental health can impact an individual’s thinking, feelings, moods, relationships and even daily function.

The signs and symptoms of mental illness often go unrecognized, and it may be difficult to know when help may be needed. The Speak Up provides several signs and symptoms, including:

  • Feeling sad, down, irritable, nervous or anxious.
  • Loss of interest or displeasure in almost all activities.
  • Low energy or feeling tired.
  • Withdrawing from family, friends or social activities.
  • Difficulty thinking, learning or making decisions.
  • Extreme mood changes.
  • Thoughts of death, suicide or other self-harm.

Different warning signs or symptoms for children are also listed, including nightmares, aggression, temper tantrums, misbehaving or disobeying, and changes in performance at school.

The campaign offers different ways to receive help, whether through a physician, counselor, psychologist, social worker or therapist, as well as the types of questions to ask a provider such as:

  • What types of treatment are available? 
  • What treatment best suits my concerns and ability to follow the care plan? 
  • Are outpatient, inpatient or telehealth services available?
  • What types of medication are involved, if any?

Additionally, the importance of having an advocate is emphasized in the Speak Up as they can help provide emotional support, overcome the stigma of seeking help for mental health, keep track of instructions from a provider, navigate insurance or the healthcare system, recognize changes in one’s condition and more.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen an increase in rates of anxiety, depression and substance use disorder,” says Haytham Kaafarani, MD, MPH, FACS, chief patient safety officer and medical director, The Joint Commission. “It is more important than ever to reduce the stigma of mental illness and make sure that individuals speak up to get the help they need. I encourage anyone who feels that they may need help to talk with a family, friend or someone they trust, and reach out to a provider who can work with them to navigate the best treatment and journey forward.” 

Speak Up™ For Your Mental Health includes an infographic in English and Spanish, animated video and distribution guide to help healthcare organizations disseminate the information to patients. These materials are free to reproduce and disseminate if credited to The Joint Commission.

If you are thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or need emotional support, please contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing or texting 988.


About The Joint Commission

Founded in 1951, The Joint Commission seeks to continuously improve healthcare for the public, in collaboration with other stakeholders, by evaluating healthcare organizations and inspiring them to excel in providing safe and effective care of the highest quality and value. The Joint Commission accredits and certifies more than 22,000 healthcare organizations and programs in the United States. An independent, nonprofit organization, The Joint Commission is the nation’s oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in healthcare. Learn more about The Joint Commission at