One in five people experience a mental illness each year according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Considering mental illness is one of the most common diseases, it is surprising that it is so widely ridiculed. To help raise awareness and acceptance of this often misunderstood issue, the National Alliance on Mental Health, often referred to as NAMI, made efforts to establish Mental Health Awareness Week.
Mental Health Awareness Week began officially in 1990 and has grown greatly since. It takes place annually during the first full week of October. This year it is taking place from Sunday, Oct. 6- Saturday Oct. 12.
Many of us are either affected by a mental illness or know someone who is, so why is this still brushed aside? A common answer to this is pride. Asking for help and being vulnerable to some may make them seem weak. In reality, asking for help is difficult. It takes courage to speak up and ask for help.
Depression, anxiety, addiction, PTSD, bipolar and countless other conditions are all related to mental health. All of these conditions make life much more difficult than it already is, only to be met with a stigma to accompany them.
Society within first world nations, such as our own, has made tremendous strides in recent years when it comes to mental illness and acceptance. But anyone on antidepressants or antipsychotics can confirm that their medications have a stigma associated with them that a blood pressure medication doesn’t.
This stigma is a huge problem. Because of it, people with mental health issues often fear that they will be judged and don’t seek out help. Since they are not getting the help they need, they often resort to self-destructive behaviors like drug use and self-harm.
Mental Health Awareness Week is vital because it encourages people to seek out help when they need it. It’s also highly beneficial to those who are ignorant to the severity of mental health issues, as the purpose of this week is to educate them too.
As someone who has suffered from various mental illnesses, and has heard some variation of “just get over it” a number of times, I believe that removing this stigma is essential in lowering suicide rates. It isn’t a matter of “getting over it;” it’s a matter of getting help. By aiding people instead of guilting them, people are seeking help instead of refuge in unhealthy coping habits.
Suicide rates have climbed in recent years throughout the United States, and it is vital that we let those suffering know beforehand that there are other options. Supporting friends and family by showing them you are there to help and not judge can save their lives.
JJC’s Press Pause is a club dedicated to making the JJC community aware of mental health issues, as well as providing students in need with resources that can help them.
Mental Health Awareness Week is doing what it was intended to do—it is raising awareness to this issue. But it needs to go farther than this week. This needs to be something that is carried out every day in the world to help our family, friends and neighbors.
Everyone deserves to feel like she or he belongs. Mental illness may be an umbrella term, but its medical legitimacy shouldn’t be questioned. If you or a loved one is ever feeling like they may be a danger to themselves, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline can be an asset. They are available 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255.