Congress officially established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week in 1990. Since then advocates have worked together every year to sponsor activities, and to educate the public about mental illness.
The statistics show the need for increased awareness. One in five Americans is affected by mental health conditions. Almost seven percent of American adults live with major depression. Among the over 20 million adults in the US who experienced a substance use disorder, more than half had a co-occurring mental illness.
Many people with mental illness reach out for support and understanding. For some, these experiences end up being negative due to the responses they may receive. Instead of getting support, they are stigmatized and hear hurtful things that lead to loneliness and isolation. Nearly 60 percent of adults with a mental illness don’t receive the mental health services they need.
Many of them are not actually seeking help or treatment because of the stigma still attached to having a mental illness. This stigma can create an environment of shame, fear and silence preventing mental health patients from addressing their needs.
More awareness, compassion, and better understanding are required to overcome the negative perception of mental illness. Millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental health condition every day. But it doesn’t only affect them. Through family, friends, and coworkers, mental illness touches everyone directly or indirectly.
Because of the widespread stigma, each October, NAMI and other participants across the country try to raise awareness of mental illness to improve the situation. Advocates believe that mental health conditions are important to discuss year-round, but highlighting them during Mental Illness Awareness Week provides a dedicated time for people across the country to come together as one unified voice.
You can help spread the word through the many awareness, support and advocacy activities including World Mental Health Day and National Depression Screening Day. Help raise awareness by sharing information, images, and graphics for #MIAW on social media using #CureStigma.
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