Romanticizing Mental Health: The Paradox of Awareness

Lauro Amezcua-Patino, MD, FAPA.
5 min readMay 26, 2024

by Lauro Amezcua-Patino, MD, FAPA.

by Lauro Amezcua-Patino, MD, FAPA.

I’ve dedicated 35 years of my life to studying and working in the field of mental health. Over the years, I’ve seen a transformation in how society views and addresses mental health issues. On the surface, it may seem like we’ve made great strides.

We have an entire month dedicated to mental health awareness, slogans of support plastered across media platforms, and more discussions about mental well-being than ever before. But beneath this facade of progress lies a troubling paradox: despite the increase in visibility and seemingly positive messaging, the mental health of Americans remains stagnant at best, and in many ways, has actually worsened.

This stark reality challenges our belief that simply talking about mental health is enough to create change. It’s time for action, not just words on a poster or social media post. Our society must prioritize and actively work towards better mental health for all individuals.

The Rise of Mental Health Awareness

As the month of May rolled in, a sense of urgency and hope filled the air. It was Mental Health Awareness Month once again, an opportunity to bring crucial issues to the forefront and initiate real change. People from all walks of life joined hands in promoting mental health education, advocating for better support systems, and raising awareness about mental well-being. Each individual involved was driven by genuine compassion and a deep desire to make a positive impact in their communities. Together, they stood as beacons of hope, determined to shed light on the often neglected topic of mental health.

The Marketing of Mental Health

As I walked through the city streets, I couldn’t help but notice the abundance of mental health awareness posters and slogans plastered on every building and billboard. It seemed like every major corporation, from hospitals to retail stores, had hopped on the bandwagon. But as I dug deeper, I realized that these efforts were often just for show — a way to boost their image and attract more customers. The true purpose of spreading awareness and effecting real change seemed to have been lost in the pursuit of profit. Mental health had become a marketing tool, a strategy used to garner positive public relations and attract potential patients and customers. Despite the noble intentions behind it all, it was disheartening to see such an important issue reduced to mere slogans and campaigns.

The Grim Reality

As we continue to see an increase in mental health campaigns and efforts to raise awareness, it may seem like progress is being made. However, the harsh reality paints a much darker picture. Despite these efforts, statistics show that the mental health of Americans has not improved; if anything, it has worsened in many aspects.

One critical indicator of mental health is the rate of suicide, and unfortunately, there has been no significant decrease since we began tracking it systematically. Instead, we are witnessing a rise in depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders, particularly among young people. These numbers suggest that despite our best efforts, the overall state of mental health in our society is deteriorating.

The Negative Trends

The trends in mental health are concerning. According to recent data:

As I scanned the latest statistics, my heart sank. The numbers were staggering, and the implications alarming. Anxiety disorders, once considered a relatively rare condition, now affect a significant portion of the adult population. Depression rates have skyrocketed, particularly among young people who are struggling to navigate their way through the complexities of modern life. But perhaps the most chilling trend is the steady increase in suicide rates, which have claimed more lives than ever before in certain age groups. And as if this weren’t enough, there’s an insidious epidemic ravaging our communities: opioid addiction, often intertwined with mental health issues, has wreaked havoc on countless individuals and families. These harrowing facts paint a grim reality of the state of mental health in our society today.

The Need for Authentic Change

So, what can we do in the face of this paradox? How can we move beyond the romanticized slogans and marketing campaigns to effect genuine change in mental health?

As a society, we must prioritize access and affordability for mental health services. This means implementing systemic changes in healthcare policy and funding to ensure that everyone, regardless of financial status, can receive the help they need.

Early intervention is crucial when it comes to addressing mental health issues. Schools, workplaces, and communities need resources to identify and address these issues before they escalate into more serious problems.

Comprehensive care is essential for treating mental health. We must acknowledge that mental and physical well-being are interconnected, and therefore mental health care should be integrated with physical health care. This holistic approach addresses the whole person rather than just focusing on one aspect of their health.

Investing in research is critical for understanding the underlying causes of mental health disorders and developing more effective treatments. Without continued investment, progress will stagnate and those suffering from mental illness will continue to struggle.

Stigma surrounding mental health persists despite progress made in recent years. Open conversations and education about mental health can help reduce this stigma and encourage individuals to seek help without shame or fear of judgment.

Corporations and institutions that profit from mental health awareness should be held accountable for their actions. Are they investing in mental health programs? Are they supporting their employees’ mental health? Transparency and accountability are necessary to ensure that these entities are truly committed to promoting mental wellness in our society.

Final Thoughts

The increased awareness and normalization of mental health has brought some positive changes, such as reducing stigma and increasing access to resources. However, this progress has been overshadowed by the paradoxical truth that despite our efforts to make it more visible, mental health is still not being properly addressed or improved.

It’s time for society to move beyond catchy slogans and surface-level marketing strategies and instead focus on addressing the root causes of mental health issues.

This will require genuine concern for the well-being of all individuals, rather than just performative actions. Only then can we hope to see a true reversal of current trends and meaningful progress in the realm of mental health.



Lauro Amezcua-Patino, MD, FAPA.

Dr. Lauro Amezcua-Patiño: Bilingual psychiatrist, podcaster, clinical leader, educator, and researcher. Expert in forensic medicine and mental health issues.