Stigma surrounding mental illnesses can prevent people from seeking treatment.
It is likely that everyone knows someone—either a friend, family member, or coworker—who is struggling with a mental illness. Despite the fact that millions of Americans live mental illnesses each year, patients are often misunderstood and stigmatized.
Each year the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) brings awareness to mental illnesses during the first full week of October, observing it as National Mental Illness Awareness Week. This year, the observation is taking place from October 7-13. All this week, NAMI is striving to educate the public on mental illness, fight the stigma associated with it, and provide support for those struggling, according to a statement from the organization.
While NAMI notes that mental illness are important to discuss throughout the year, dedicating a week to mental illness awareness allows advocates to join forces and have a greater impact. The first week of October has been observed as National Mental Illness Awareness week since Congress officially established it in 1990. NAMI, along with smaller local advocate groups, have sponsored a variety of activities to educate the public on mental illness for the past 28 years during this week.
NAMI is promoting the 2018 National Mental Illness Awareness theme, “CureStigma” at all events taking place this week. The theme highlights the fact that while 1 in 5 Americans are affected by a mental health condition, a stigma still surrounds mental illness.
Stigmatizing mental illness can be damaging to mental health management, as it can lead to feelings of shame, fear, and silence that could prevent patients from seeking treatment. And, according to NAMI, some lives are lost, due to mental health conditions.
In a prepared statement, officials with the organization said that 'stigma' is a virus for individuals with mental health conditions. However, they said, that virus is curable.
“Compassion, empathy and understanding are the antidote," said NAMI officials, in the statement. "Your voice can spread the cure. Join NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Together we can #CureStigma.”
Mental Illness Awareness Week. National Alliance on Mental Illness’s Website. https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Raise-Awareness/Awareness-Events/Mental-Illness-Awareness-Week. Accessed October 9, 2018.