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Top 10 Mental Health Symbols, Meanings, & Raising Awareness

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In the national efforts to strengthen mental health, it is vital to protect and promote the mental well-being of all and address the needs of people with mental health conditions. Continue to read for the meanings of mental health symbols.

Mental Health Awareness Symbol

The first documented case of mental illness dates back to 1100 BC in ancient China. Traditional Chinese medicine treats persons with mental problems with medicines, acupuncture, and emotional treatment. In traditional Chinese medicine, emotional treatment is a nursing plan based on five emotions: anger, joy, contemplation, concern, and fear.

While the specific origin of most mental diseases is unknown, research shows that a mix of variables such as inheritance, biology, psychological trauma, and environmental stress may be at work. Today, people are more aware and open-minded as far as a mental health issue is concerned. This is seen even in symbols. Efforts have been made to provide representations for mental health worldwide. Mental health symbols prove that the issue is taken seriously and treated with respect nowadays.

Millions of adults and children across America experience mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Nearly one in five Americans live with a mental health condition. In the context of national efforts to strengthen mental health treatment, it is vital to protect and promote the mental well-being of all and address the needs of people with mental health conditions. [1]

Mental Health Awareness Month Symbol

Millions of Americans face living with a mental illness each year. During May, We Level Up FL joins the national movement to raise awareness about mental health. Each year we fight stigma, provide support, educate the public, and advocate for policies that support people with mental illness and their families.

Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in May in the United States since 1949. The month is observed with media, local events, and film screenings. Everyone is encouraged to wear a green or a green ribbon for this cause.

The green ribbon is the international symbol for mental health awareness. Green is the color of mental health, representing hope, strength, support, and encouragement for sufferers.
The green ribbon is the international symbol for mental health awareness. Green is the color of mental health, representing hope, strength, support, and encouragement for sufferers.

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Prevalence of Any Mental Illness Statistics

Mental illnesses are common in the United States. Nearly one in five U.S. adults has a mental illness (52.9 million in 2020). Mental illnesses include many different conditions that vary in severity, ranging from mild to moderate to severe. [2]

Source: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)


52.9 Million

In 2020, an estimated 52.9 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States with any mental illness. This number represented 21.0% of all U.S. adults.

Source: NIMH

14.2 Million

In 2020, an estimated 14.2 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States with severe mental illnesses. This number represented 5.6% of all U.S. adults.

Source: NIMH

24.3 Million

In 2020, among the 52.9 million adults with any mental illness, 24.3 million (46.2%) received mental health services in the past year.

Source: NIMH


Mental Health Awareness Symbols

Facts Sheet

The green ribbon is a symbol used to represent the cause of mental health awareness and to support those who suffer from mental illness. It is used to represent Mental Health Week worldwide. Mental Health Awareness Week is held annually in the second week of October.

Many variations of the green ribbon are used to acknowledge different causes, such as teal, lime, and jade colors. The mental health awareness ribbon is usually a dark emerald green (not the lighter emerald green) or, more acurately, dark moderate cyan–lime green. For mental health awareness, let’s say it’s a green ribbon.

There are some claims that the green ribbon in use today evolved from the historical wearing of a sprig of green to symbolize mental health issues, which included the state of grief or melancholy. A ribbon would be fashioned from a pine sprig, twisted and pinned to a coat to signify one’s support for someone suffering mental torment, usually caused by the trauma of loss.

There are claims from questionable sources that in the 19th century, some residential patients in hospitals in the USA were adorned with a green sash or ribbon to indicate that they were insane. There is little evidence to support this, and it is not recorded as a widespread practice. If a green sash or ribbon was used for labeling people, it has no relationship to the green ribbon adopted for mental health awareness today.

For all it might be worth, the history of the green ribbon for mental health matters has no bearing on how it is used in modern times. Today, the green ribbon is about advocacy for mental health awareness and celebrating our enlightenment to the cause.

The green ribbon is the international symbol of mental health awareness. Wear a green ribbon to show colleagues, loved ones, or simply those you walk past that you care about their mental health. It can also be worn in memory of a loved one.
The green ribbon is the international symbol of mental health awareness. Wear a green ribbon to show colleagues, loved ones, or simply those you walk past that you care about their mental health. It can also be worn in memory of a loved one.

The Cause for Supporting Mental Health Awareness

In the late 19th century, a retired school teacher in the United States, Dorethea Dix, is credited with founding the modern Mental Health Movement, which began a change in how people with mental disorders were viewed and treated by the medical establishment and society in general. She is considered the first psychiatric social worker before that profession formally existed.

While financial support is starting to improve in some countries, support for mental well-being is still much underfunded. However, it is widely acknowledged that the financial cost and social effects on every individual and the greater population far exceed all other issues affecting a country’s ability to function. Mental health cannot be separated from the human condition.


Supporting Mental Wellbeing

The green cause ribbon is now a universal symbol used for mental health awareness. When worn or displayed during mental health week, it serves to demonstrate our show of support and respect for those who suffer from mental illness or afflictions.

[3] Source: Mental Health Awareness Month – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

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Top 10 Symbols for Mental Health Awareness

Every day, week, and the month dedicated to things is so important. Especially stuff for Mental Health/Illness Awareness. There are so many families out there that have lost people important to them because of mental illnesses, and it is crucial to be aware of days that we can help out. There are estimated to be 8 million deaths yearly due to mental illness. 8 million people a year. These estimates suggest that mental disorders rank among the most substantial causes of death worldwide. These deaths are so critical for us to learn and change from. To change the way we approach these people. They need help and love, and reassurance. And not many of them get that.

The worldwide symbol, the green ribbon, is just the international symbol for mental health. Here are the top symbols invented or adopted in modern times to represent mental health. All of these symbols are crucial to everybody involved with them, and they should be there for the information of others. To inform others of what people have been through and maybe even how to help those struggling.

1. Genogram Mental Health Symbols

A genogram is structurally similar to a family tree but serves a different purpose. Genograms provide a way for us to examine these patterns. A genogram is a diagramming tool developed in genetic research and family medicine to help capture, on paper, all the persons in a family.

The second major step in using mental health genogram symbols includes helping the client find images and tell narratives of strengths based on the community representation he or she previously developed.

Genograms of mental health counselor symbols help depict the key people in an individual's life and their relationship with them. This tool makes it easier for professionals to identify where issues and concerns come from within the family. A genogram is also a very helpful tool in social work.
Genograms of mental health counselor symbols help depict the key people in an individual’s life and their relationship with them. This tool makes it easier for professionals to identify where issues and concerns come from within the family. A genogram is also a very helpful tool in social work.

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2. The Color Green

Green is the color that symbolizes depression, bipolar disorder, and other mental illnesses. The color is popularly used in promoting mental health awareness. The green color represents hope, strength, and support for those with mental health disorders. It encourages mental health awareness to help fight the stigma often associated with mental illnesses.

This symbol mental health punctuation mark is used by the organization dedicated to mental health awareness and suicide prevention called Project Semicolon.
This symbol mental health punctuation mark is used by the organization dedicated to mental health awareness and suicide prevention called Project Semicolon.

3. Semicolon

As a punctuation mark, the semicolon is generally used to indicate two closely related sentences and to clarify a series. The semicolon separates one or more elements in a series with a comma. In other words, we use semicolons when a sentence could have ended but didn’t.

The phrase “could have ended but didn’t” symbolizes mental health. For some, it connotes surviving suicide or a triumph over suicidal thoughts, represented by the semicolon symbol. This is a prevalent mental health symbol that we often see on social media posts and as “skin mental health symbols tattoos” these days.

The semicolon mental health symbol signifies affirmation and solidarity against several mental health issues, which include addiction, suicide, and depression. It symbolizes the concept that people with mental health issues will go on and that their story doesn’t end with this fight – it’s merely the beginning.

4. Monarch Butterfly

The monarch butterfly has been chosen as one of the symbols of mental health recovery for people affected by mental illness because this butterfly perfectly shows just how short life is. Therefore, it should be valued. It is meant to show and make people recognize how fleeting our existence is. Recognizing this fact makes us appreciate life more.

The monarch butterfly symbol can be used to discourage people with mental health disorders from entertaining ideas of self-harm, particularly the ones afflicted with depression.

The stages of a monarch butterfly’s development also represent mental health issues – from egg to caterpillar to the adult butterfly or virtually its whole life cycle. This life cycle is symbolic of transformation and rebirth to some individuals, while to others it is seen as an upcoming change or a new path in life.

The cocoon-like condition of this winged insect during its early stages of development is comparable to the depressed and withdrawn feelings that people whose lives are affected by mental health issues suffer from.

The monarch butterfly is considered the king of butterflies and the most beautiful of all butterflies in the world. They represent strength, endurance, spirituality, trust, sustaining what they believe, transformation, and evolution.

The Monarch Butterfly is a majestic butterfly chosen as a symbol for people affected by mental illness. There is no more striking symbol of transformation than a "monarch butterfly symbolism mental health."
The Monarch Butterfly is a majestic butterfly chosen as a symbol for people affected by mental illness. There is no more striking symbol of transformation than a “monarch butterfly symbolism mental health.”

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The Blue Dot is the international symbol for maternal mental health awareness. The Blue Dot was created by Peggy O'Neil Nosti, a mom who suffered from postpartum anxiety with her third child who wanted to find a way to let other moms know they were not alone.
The Blue Dot is the international symbol for maternal mental health awareness. The Blue Dot was created by Peggy O’Neil Nosti, a mom who suffered from postpartum anxiety with her third child and wanted to find a way to let other moms know they were not alone.

7. The Mental Health Bell

During the early days of treatment for mental health, asylums commonly used irons and shackles to restrain mentally-afflicter people.

This cruel practice was stopped in the early 1950s. The discarded chains and shackles were melted down and recast into the Mental Health Bell, symbolizing hope for people afflicted with mental health disorders.

Now the symbol of Mental Health America, the 300-pound Bell serves as an emphatic reminder that the invisible chains of misunderstanding and discrimination continue to bind people with mental illnesses. 
Now the symbol of Mental Health America, the 300-pound Bell serves as an emphatic reminder that the invisible chains of misunderstanding and discrimination continue to bind people with mental illnesses. 

5. Blue Dot

The blue dot symbol was created in 2017 by a mother who suffered from postpartum depression. As the symbol of solidarity and support, the blue dot promotes awareness of maternal mental health disorders and combat stigma and shame.

The symbol – inspired by the Blue Dot Project, an NGO dedicated to the awareness of maternal mental health issues – depicts a subtle image of a blue dot and a silver lining to represent hope. The blue color used to be baby blue but was changed to robin’s egg blue to symbolize reproductive mental health.

6. Serotonin

Dubbed the “happy chemical,” serotonin is a naturally occurring chemical that processes sleep, learning and memory, mood regulation, digestion, and more. Low levels of this chemical may cause mood swings, anxiety, and depression.

The serotonin symbol associated with mental health is used as a reminder that people with mental health issues are not to be blamed, but rather a chemical imbalance in their brain is what causes their struggles.

Those with serotonin mental health symbol tattoos may have it as a reminder to stay happy and calm. So you can be the one to have control over your happiness and mental wellbeing.
Those with serotonin mental health symbol tattoos may have it as a reminder to stay happy and calm. So you can be the one to have control over your happiness and mental well-being.

Negative Mental Health Symbols and Meanings

8. The “Peace” Sign

As a mental health symbol, the peace sign does not signify peace. Instead, it is an abstract portrayal of loneliness and depression. You have to look hard enough to understand why.

The peace sign is made up of a stick figure bent over in a position that calls to mind a person suffering from extreme loneliness or depression. The circle represents the head, while the short lines represent the arms reaching for the ground.

Some people use this symbol to convey that it’s okay to talk about mental health, thus encouraging others to open up.

For those dealing with trauma, depression, or some other challenging circumstance, peace might feel out of reach. What can you do to help others find their peace?
For those dealing with trauma, depression, or some other challenging circumstance, peace might feel out of reach. What can you do to help others find their peace?
Mental health can affect daily living, relationships, and physical health. If you feel like one symbol for mental health awareness in this list is denoting your circumstances, never hesitate to seek help.
Mental health can affect daily living, relationships, and physical health. If you feel like one symbol for mental health awareness in this list is denoting your circumstances, never hesitate to seek help.

9. Half-Moon

The half-moon symbol represents the dual experience within a person suffering from a mental disorder. Half the person is illuminated, which symbolizes the fight against the condition. The other half denotes that it has given up fighting and remains in the dark.

10. North Direction

North is one of the four cardinal directions, opposite of south and perpendicular to east and west. In literature, the north direction represents death and isolation as well as cold and hostility.

The north direction, such as in the compass, is another negative symbol of mental health adopted to symbolize depression.

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Mental Health Treatment Resources

If you or someone you know has a mental illness, is struggling emotionally, or has concerns about their mental health, contact We Level Up FL mental health treatment center to get help. You may ask our mental health specialists for the resources to find help for you, a friend, or a family member.

Treatment for mental illnesses usually includes therapy, medication, or a combination. It can sometimes be difficult to know where to start when looking for mental health care, but there are many ways to find a provider who will meet your needs.

Seek professional help if you are experiencing severe or distressing symptoms that have lasted two weeks or more, such as:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Appetite changes that result in unwanted weight changes
  • Struggling to get out of bed in the morning because of my mood
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of interest in things you usually find enjoyable
  • Inability to perform usual daily functions and responsibilities

Don’t wait until your symptoms are overwhelming. If you think that you may have a mental health problem, get help. Talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapyDBT therapy, and medications, can treat mental disorders. Contact We Level Up FL mental health treatment center if you don’t know where to start.

Top Mental Health Symbol Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What mental health awareness symbol tattoo represents positivity?

    The green ribbon, also referred to as the mental health ribbon, is the global symbol of mental health awareness and can also be associated with bipolar disorder. The green ribbon tattoo is an excellent mental health choice, especially for people who want to show their support for mentally ill people.

  2. Is there a men’s mental health symbol tattoo for depression?

    Depression tattoos can be a way to express yourself, give yourself a visual reminder of the need to stay strong, and also a symbol to those around you of your beliefs and the difficulties you are facing.

  3. What mental health symbol tattoo is for anxiety?

    Spiritual tattoos — mandala, hamsa, chakra, tree of life, Budha, lotus, etc. — are typical for battling anxiety. They symbolize the overcoming of struggle, protection, self care, rebirth, the circle of life, kindness, strength, new challenges, and new beginnings.

  4. What mental health tattoo symbols represent overcoming depression?

    A semicolon tattoo is a tattoo of the punctuation mark (;), which is used as a message of affirmation and solidarity with those who have dealt with suicide, depression, addiction, and other mental health issues. If you don’t want a simple traditional semicolon tattoo, you could pair that semicolon with another image or graphic. There are many options to choose from, with one of the popular options being a flower. Flowers have symbolic meaning, so if you add a flower to your semicolon tattoo, you could match that flower to the meaning you want to convey.

  5. What is the mental health flower symbol?

    Jasmine is not just a beautiful bloom. It is also one of the preferred flowers for mental health preservation. It can reduce stress and anxiety levels. For people with sleep problems, it also helps lower a person’s heart rate and facilitate a peaceful sleep

Search Mental Health Symbol & Mental Health Topics & Resources
Sources

[1] Mental health: strengthening our response – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

[2] Mental Health Awareness Month – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

[3] Mental Illness – National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

[4] Galderisi S, Heinz A, Kastrup M, Beezhold J, Sartorius N. Toward a new definition of mental health. World Psychiatry. 2015 Jun;14(2):231-3. DOI: 10.1002/wps.20231. PMID: 26043341; PMCID: PMC4471980.

[5] Manwell LA, Barbic SP, Roberts K, Durisko Z, Lee C, Ware E, McKenzie K. What is mental health? Evidence towards a new definition from a mixed methods multidisciplinary, international survey. BMJ Open. 2015 Jun 2;5(6):e007079. DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-007079. PMID: 26038353; PMCID: PMC4458606.

[6] National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (UK). Common Mental Health Disorders: Identification and Pathways to Care. Leicester (UK): British Psychological Society (UK); 2011. (NICE Clinical Guidelines, No. 123.) 2, COMMON MENTAL HEALTH DISORDERS. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92254/

[7] Krystal JH, State MW. Psychiatric disorders: diagnosis to therapy. Cell. 2014 Mar 27;157(1):201-14. DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.02.042. PMID: 24679536; PMCID: PMC4104191.

[8] National Institutes of Health (US); Biological Sciences Curriculum Study. NIH Curriculum Supplement Series [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Institutes of Health (US); 2007. Information about Mental Illness and the Brain. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK20369/

[9] Malla A, Joober R, Garcia A. “Mental illness is like any other medical illness”: a critical examination of the statement and its impact on patient care and society. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2015 May;40(3):147-50. DOI: 10.1503/jpn.150099. PMID: 25903034; PMCID: PMC4409431.

[10] About Mental Health – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention