Mental illness is prevalent in this country, and unfortunately is largely misunderstood and misrepresented. This lack of understanding is born from the absence of discussion and thus understanding and awareness. Mental Illness Awareness Week is meant to bring attention to the struggles of those who live with mental health issues everyday. Thanks to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), this year the first week of October is dedicated to shining a light on mental illness, in hopes of replacing the stigma with a sense of possibility, and improving access to treatment and services.
Mental Illness Stigma
Negative attitudes and beliefs about those who suffer from mental illness are rampant in this country. Those who struggle from mental illness are often labeled as dangerous, incompetent, or erratic. These stereotypes lead to mental illness stigma and create social distancing, which only perpetuates the symptoms and suffering of those individuals. The discrimination that many with mental illness encounter also has the tendency to exclude these people from educational, employment, and even social opportunities. Yet, there are ways to approach the minimization, and even eradication of mental illness stigma, and it starts with education.
To find out more about mental illness awareness week go to http://www.nami.org/stigmafree
Education on Mental Illness
Combating mental illness stigma begins with education. While much stigma surrounds mental illness in general, there are certain diagnoses that are increasingly misunderstood, and therefore targeted. To garner improved recognition and understanding, this year NAMI will devote special attention to bipolar awareness, schizophrenia awareness, and depression awareness.
The millions of people diagnosed with these mental illnesses each year are often defined by their diagnosis in the public eye. Those who suffer lack opportunities to speak openly about their struggles, and are instead silenced, being met with shame and blame from the outside world. The aim of mental illness awareness week is to fight this erroneous information and perception through imparting accurate knowledge to the general public, while also providing direct contact with the affected individuals. Providing a venue for one-on-one interaction with those diagnosed with bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, and other mental health issues, is a promising way to start to garner understanding and equal status for these individuals.
If you or someone you know may need a mental health assessment, there are online tools are available. Receive a free mental health screening at HelpYourselfHelpOthers.org.
Access to Treatment
The stigmatization of mental illness in this country has created a great barrier to the seeking out, and participating in, mental health treatment. The lack of ability to identify features of mental illness, coupled with stigma, has resulted in ignorance about how to access treatment. Thankfully, there are many treatment options and varying approaches to the management and care of mental illness. Yet, in order to make these available, accessible, and approachable, the mental illness awareness in this country must be significantly expanded.
Mental Illness Awareness Week will emphasize access to affordable, non-discriminatory treatment options for those who individuals in need.