When is Mental Health Awareness Week and what is this year's theme?

Mental health awareness. (Getty Images)
Mental health awareness should also be important all year round. (Getty Images)

Each year, Mental Health Awareness Week aims to shine a light on the importance of wellbeing, help tackle stigma, prevent people from suffering and improve the care that's out there.

Whether you're going through a tough time yourself, know someone who is, or just want to learn more, now is a great time to pay attention to mental health.

So, here's what you need to know about the all-important event in 2023 – from when it starts to this year's theme.

Read more: Vicky Pattison shares tearful selfie about her anxiety: 'I struggle to push toxic thoughts away'

When is Mental Health Awareness Week 2023?

This year, Mental Health Awareness Week falls on 15-21 May.

While it's run by the Mental Health Foundation, lots of charities support the week and get involved in their own way too.

What is this year's Mental Health Awareness Week theme?

Woman suffering with anxiety, sat looking in thought on chair. (Getty Images)
Mental health symptoms aren't always obvious of course. (Getty Images)

The official theme, set by the Mental Health Foundation, is anxiety.

A quarter of UK adults have felt so anxious that it stopped them from doing the things they want some or all of the time, a recent survey by the Foundation found.

"We all feel anxious from time to time. Anxiety is a natural response to the uncertain world around us. For example, in the current cost-of-living crisis, more than a third of adults feel anxious about their financial situation," says Alexa Knight, director of England at the Mental Health Foundation. "But it’s important that we recognise and respond when we feel anxious, so that our anxiety doesn’t become overwhelming.

"We've chosen anxiety as the theme this year to kickstart a nationwide conversation, encouraging people to share their own experiences and any helpful ideas on how they manage anxiety."

Mental Health UK is supporting the theme with its own campaign called 'Just' Anxiety?, which it says aims to help people and organisations understand the difference between anxiety and anxiety disorders and to confidently seek and and help each other find the right support.

For this year's awareness week, Mind is focusing more on the impact the cost of living crisis is having on our mental health.

Previous official themes have included loneliness, the benefits of nature and kindness.

Read more: How to deal with a panic attack as Prue Leith reveals stage fright left her ‘so frightened’ she couldn’t breathe

Anxiety in reality

Sahara Patel whose experiences of anxiety were used to help generate the artwork in the Anxiety exhibition of AI art, outside London Waterloo station on Thursday 11 May, 2023. (David Parry/PA Wire)
Sahara Patel's experience of anxiety has been used to generate AI art, pictured outside London Waterloo station on Thursday 11 May, 2023. (David Parry/PA Wire)

Ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) spoke to people with lived experiences of anxiety, creating AI-generated installation with their quotes.

One contributor, Sahara Patel, 29, described her anxiety as "like cling film had been wrapped tighter and tighter around her chest".

"I’ve suffered with anxiety since I was a child, but it wasn’t until I was much older that I looked for support from a counsellor to help me cope with my feelings," she explains.

"Having a chance to help someone recognise their anxiety symptoms through my experience and the lens of AI art is very rewarding. Growing up, I had a hard time recognising my symptoms of anxiety but seeing my quote worked up as a piece of art has been cathartic. It’s captured my feelings perfectly and it’s visually striking as well.

"I hope this campaign will resonate with people and encourage people to seek qualified help should they need it."

Read more: The key to a happy life is emotional stability, study finds

How to get involved in Mental Health Awareness Week

There's no pressure to do something huge (but if you want to, that's great) as showing your support in any way can make a big difference.

The Mental Health Foundations suggests downloading its resource pack, which includes logos and posters, a social media guide, and an anxiety booklet for schools.

You can also order a green ribbon – the international symbol of mental health awareness – to help with raising awareness and funds. All proceeds go towards the charity's work on mental health prevention.

You can Wear It Green on Thursday 18 May, by running an event at your workplace, school in your community, or similar. This could be as simple as a bake sale or hosting a quiz.

For the brave among us, you can sign up to take a skydive – jumping from 10,000 feet at more than 100mph to help raise funds.

And of course, if you're able to, you can make a donation.

But simply talking about mental health with your friends, family and people you trust can be the best place to start.

To find out more about anxiety, see our useful guide on the most common mental health conditions and where to get help, or for the younger ones, our guide on how to spot anxiety in your child and how to help.

The Mental Health Foundation also has some useful tips on what to do to cope with feelings of anxiety.

If you're struggling to cope with anxiety, fear or panic, see a GP, or find an NHS talking therapies service.

You can also seek qualified support from a BACP therapist who is trained to offer a safe, confidential, non-judgemental space to explore and address your feelings.

Watch: How can I improve my mental health?