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Find Info, Fight Stigma With Mental Illness Awareness Week 2017

Each year, as designated by Congress, the first week in October is designated Mental Illness Awareness Week. As part of the effort, the National Alliance on Mental Health has put together toolkits to help communities focus on the power of beginning inspiring conversations and becoming informed.

In 2017, NAMI aims to help communities understand the prevalence of mental illness. The numbers are here to back it up:

  • 5 percent—43.8 million—Americans experience mental illness in a given year.
  • 4 percent—9.8 million—experience a serious mental illness that interferes with or severely limits major life activities.
  • 4 percent of youth ages 13-18 experience a severe mental disorder at some point in their lives.

With figures like that, it might seem that there is an awareness of mental health—and a lack of related stigma. That is not the case. In 1999, the U.S. Surgeon General published a report on mental health that labeled stigma a public health concern. NAMI’s Mental Illness Awareness Week encourages participants to take a StigmaFree Pledge and provides tips for becoming a leader in the mental health movement.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), people living with mental health challenges often are:

  • Alienated and seen as “others.”
  • Perceived as dangerous.
  • Seen as irresponsible or unable to make their own decisions.
  • Less likely to be hired.
  • Less likely to get safe housing.
  • More likely to be criminalized than offered healthcare services.
  • Afraid of rejection to the point that they don’t always pursue opportunities.

While there are many ways to support those with mental illness, there also is a need for awareness of our own mental health. The Screening for Mental Health includes self-assessments for college students, military families and members of the public.

Granted, no one week can solve the myriad of issues related to mental illness and health awareness. But an intentional focus can set in motion a plan that can carry throughout a lifetime.

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Resources:
NAMI’s StigmaFree Pledge https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Take-the-stigmafree-Pledge/StigmaFree-Me
NAMI’s Mental Illness Awareness Week https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Raise-Awareness/Awareness-Events/Mental-Illness-Awareness-Week
Screening for Mental Health http://helpyourselfhelpothers.org/