Each October, thousands of mental health advocacy organizations throughout the country observe Mental Illness Awareness Week. This year the commemorative week will take place October 5 – 11.
Congress declared the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week in 1990, to recognize the efforts of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in raising public awareness of mental illness. The week of advocacy coincides with several other notable events, including:
- The National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery – October 7
- National Depression Screening Day – October 9
- World Mental Health Day – October 10
NAMI reminds us that there are compelling reasons to increase public awareness of mental illness. The following facts are daunting:
- In the U.S., mental illness affects approximately 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 5 children.
- Half of all chronic mental illnesses begin by age 14 and three-quarters by the age of 24. Often several years take place between the onset of symptoms and the beginning of treatment.
- About 60% of adults and almost half of youth aged 8-15 with a mental illness obtained no treatment services during the past year.
“Go Green for Mental Illness Awareness” is this year’s theme. Individuals and groups are asked to wear green to draw attention to mental awareness. Whether wearing a green outfit or a simple green ribbon, people can show their solidarity by wearing a touch of green. In some communities, green lights are being mounted in public areas, and other creative ways are being used to “go green.”
More importantly, concerned individuals can take the time to educate themselves about mental illness, including advances in treatment, and share this information with friends and family members. NAMI offers a great deal of information about early identification and treatment at its website, www.nami.org or its HelpLine at: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264).
If one to four adults lives with mental illness, someone in your office, neighborhood, or home is dealing with its effects. Learn to be an advocate 365 days a year, but start with a bit of green this week!