Mental Illness Awareness Week is Oct. 1-7, 2017, and it addresses an issue that hits pretty close to home.
My mother’s late sister, my Aunt Karen, suffered from bipolar disorder for most of her life. She died alone in her apartment, although we were grateful she was not on the street. My aunt’s mental illness started to manifest itself in her early teens, but she never received proper treatment. There was limited understanding of treatment options for mental illness in the 1960s, and by the time her disease started to affect her life she didn’t want treatment. My aunt’s bipolar disorder eventually developed into a form of schizophrenia that left her constantly anxious and paranoid. My Aunt Karen was a brilliant woman who may have had a different life if my grandparents had more information on the symptoms and effects of mental illness.
During Mental Illness Awareness Week, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and participants across the United States raise awareness of mental illness. NAMI and its partners fight stigma, provide support, educate the public, and advocate for equal care.
With stars like Demi Lovato (who suffers from bipolar disorder), Selena Gomez (anxiety and depression), and Emma Stone (anxiety, OCD) opening up about their own struggles, much of the secrecy and shaming of mental illnesses have faded–but still, there’s a long way to go.
Here are four simple ways to get involved:
Take the StigmaFree Pledge
NAMI defines stigma as when someone views another person in a negative way because they have a mental health condition. Creating a stigma-free population includes education, proactivity, and action. We all have a part to play.
Taking NAMI’s StigmaFree pledge involves three steps. The first step is educating yourself and others with personal research using online resources, publications, and awareness events. The second step is to see the person, not their condition. This can be done by reading personal stories on the NAMI website or spending time around those who suffer from mental illness to see that they are regular people who happen to suffer from a unique illness or disorder. The final step is to take action. NAMI specifically recommends getting involved at the grassroots level to affect policy change.
Take the StigmaFree pledge here.
Find a NAMIWalk
Each NAMIWalks is a 5k event designed to bring people from all walks of life and fitness levels together to fight stigma, raise money, and promote awareness of mental illness. NAMIWalks take place in over 80 locations across the United States. NAMIWalks do not have registration fees, but entrants are encouraged to build teams, share personal stories, and raise money to support their local or state NAMI organizations.
Find your local, regional, or state NAMIWalk here.
NAMI on Campus
NAMI on Campus clubs are student-led, student-run mental health organizations on college campuses. According to NAMI, 75% of mental health conditions emerge by age 24, so a significant number of college students are facing mental health issues for the first time, away from home, and students likely do not know where to go for support. NAMI on Campus clubs are effective because they seek to create peer-to-peer relationships so students can support one another through difficult transitions.
NAMI on Campus clubs spend time hosting awareness events, creative meetings, and programming through partnerships with NAMI state organizations or affiliates across the United States.
Donate to NAMI
If all else fails, you can always donate.
NAMI is the United State’s largest grassroots mental health organization that uses money to make sure no one is alone on their mental health journey. Donations to NAMI help create a nationwide network of online and in-person support and resources.
Donate to NAMI here.
Raising awareness is a critical step towards changing policy and saving lives. Let’s come together to raise money, affect change, and make stigma a thing of the past. Be sure to check out the NAMI website for more information on how to get involved this week and year-round!
How do you plan to do your part during Mental Illness Awareness Week?
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