During Mental Illness Awareness Week on Oct. 1-7, 2017, National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI) and other mental health participants across the United States are raising awareness of mental illness and the effects it can have on individuals throughout the country. Each year mental health awareness week promotes campaigns nationwide to fight stigma against mental health, to educate the public about mental health, to advocate for equal care and to support those who are battling a mental health disorder. Mental health disorders range from anxiety, depression and bipolar disease to schizophrenia, eating disorders and personality disorders. Mental illnesses affect all aspects of an individual’s life from their professional work life and their family life to their social life and physical well-being; living with a mental illness can have a ripple effect on many people close to the individual.

Understanding the statistics

Congress, in 1990, designated the first week of October as Mental Health Awareness Week, in support of the NAMI efforts to raise awareness about its devastating effects on lives and generations. According to NAMI, nearly 1 in 4 Americans (62 million persons) are affected by mental illness annually, and 1 in 25 adults in the United States live with a major mental illness such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Close to 20 percent of teens from 13-18 cope with mental illness annually, and about 30 percent of adults cope with anxiety disorders. The cost of mental illness is staggering 193 billion dollars annually in lost earnings, according to NAMI. In fact, mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder represent the third most common cause of hospitalization for both youths and adults aged 18-44.

Mental health disorders can also have a direct result on the physical health of individuals.  Adults who have a serious mental illness are at an increased risk for chronic medical illnesses such as coronary artery disease, diabetes and hypertension and research has shown that adults living with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier secondary from not receiving treatment for such chronic medical conditions related to their mental heal disorder.

Why is mental health awareness week important?

  • One in four adults in the United States will be diagnosed with a mental health disorder in a give year.
  • Half of all mental health disorders start by 14 years of age.
  • An average of six to eight years pass before an individual seeks professional help for their mental health disorder.
  • 90% of individuals who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental health disorder.
  • Fear and shame associated with the stigma surrounding mental health disorders is the number one reason why individuals do not seek professional help.

How to seek help for a mental illness

There is a long time lapse between the onset of symptoms and when the individual recognizes they may have a mental illness to when the individual decides to seek professional help. Many individuals are in denial of their symptoms and may lack insight preventing them from seeking a diagnosis and treatment. The first step to seeking help is to be open to the signs and symptoms that are present and to find a professional who has experience in diagnosing and treating these signs and symptoms. Treatment may range from residential around the clock care to outpatient treatment where an individual can be managed with psychotherapy and medications. It is important that individuals with mental illness realize they are not alone and that there is support to help them through difficult times. Most importantly, it’s essential that they understand it is possible to cope with and recover from the grips of mental illness.