This week is national Mental Illness Awareness Week. Established by Congress in 1990, it was created to recognize and support the efforts of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to increase pubic awareness about mental illness.
Over one quarter of adult Americans suffer from some type of mental illness each year, ranging from mild adjustment disorders to severe depression, schizophrenia, and other major disorders. Even though a larger number of individuals are affected by mental illness, it continues to be surrounded by a great deal of stigma, largely due to misunderstanding of the facts.
Commemorations such as Mental Illness Awareness Week can help to reduce stigma and improve community awareness by providing a forum for education and discussion.
We offer a few facts on the prevalence of mental illness as part of our own educational efforts:
- One in five individuals in the U.S. are living with a mental health condition today. This represents approximately 60 million Americans.
- Half of all individuals with chronic mental illness develop the condition by age 14. Mental illness is NOT just a disorder of adulthood.
- Suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the 2nd leading cause among young adults. Approximately 90% of deaths by suicide occur in individuals with an underlying mental illness.
This year, NAMI is asking individuals across the country to take the Stigma Free pledge. Individuals are asked to:
- Learn more about mental health issues. Everyone’s life is touched by someone with a mental illness, whether a family member, colleague, neighbor, or friend. Individuals can take responsibility for educating themselves about mental health issues in order to provide informed, empathic support.
- See the person and not the illness. People are more than the sum of their mental health problems. Empathy is important, as well as the ability to see the whole person – not just the illness.
- Take action on mental health issues. Caring citizens can support legislation and policies that promote better community mental health as well as greater support for individuals with serious mental illness. Through speaking out publicly and in the voting booth, each individual can make a difference.
If you would like to replace stigma with hope and positive action, go to the NAMI website and sign the Stigma Free pledge today!