The first week of October is Mental Health Awareness Week. For 18 years, our local affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness has used the occasion for both celebration and outreach.
We celebrate the success of brain research that has produced so many new and better treatments for mental illness. Today, 70 to 90 percent of those who seek help can expect recovery measured by the ability to live, laugh and love again.
And, we continue our outreach – both to individuals and families who live with a mental health problem as well as the people who live in their communities. Since 20 percent of all adults have symptoms typical of a diagnosable mental illness, our campaign to increase understanding extends to every neighborhood in every community in our area.
Every year, the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week is Changing Attitudes, Saving Lives. Whenever a goal requires changing attitudes, it’s a slow, persistent process. It means reminding our family, friends and co-workers that words matter and our choices can have unintended consequences for people we care about. Since people with a mental illness look no different than anyone else, we need to choose our words carefully all the time.
For example, saying things that make a joke of mental illness or implying that disorders of the brain are somehow less real than other illnesses only adds to the stigma and isolation often felt by individuals and families who deal with mental health problems. Many times that stigma discourages people from seeking help.
For individuals and families living with mental illness, NAMI wants you to know that our meetings, classes and support groups are free and open to the public. You will find people there who understand and listen nonjudgmentally — people who offer support, encouragement and hope.
You can find out more about NAMI Four County and what we offer by visiting our website: www.namifourcounty.org.
We ask you to join us this week as we celebrate the treatments that make recovery from mental health problems likely for those who seek them. But, above all, be a light of friendship and encouragement for individuals and families living with mental illness.
NAMI Four County