Mental Illness Awareness Week, May 11-17

Today begins Mental Illness Awareness Week.

Established by Congress in 1990 thanks to efforts by the tireless National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), it occurs every year during the first week of October to raise awareness about mental illness.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 26.2% of adult Americans (that’s a whopping 1 in four) suffer from a mental disorder in a given year. In 2004 U.S. Census numbers, that’s 57.7 million people.

And, according to the World Health Organization, mental illness is the leading cause of disability in both the U.S. and Canada for people aged 15-45.

That’s far ahead of accidents, ahead of arthritis, cancer, diabetes–it’s a seriously scary statistic.

In fact, there’s a lot we could say about mental illness (as if we haven’t said a lot already!), but I’m put in mind of a quote by Benjamin Franklin (he of the wonderfully incisive “Fish and visitors smell in three days” quotation fame):

Well done is better than well said. 

So let’s do something.

NAMI has a website dedicated to the week, where you can find banners, posters, model letters to the editor and Op-eds, and and an Idea Book.

The theme this year is “Changing Attitudes, Changing Lives,” and a lot of the work will be targeted against the stigma that still remains surrounding mental illness.

NAMI is never short on ideas, and they offer some suggestions for what you can do to make this week meaningful to you and to anyone who suffers from mental illness, all of which can be found in detail in their Idea Book. Just for a smattering of their resourcefulness, you could:

1. Host an art exhibit, concern or other creative event

2. Create bookstore and library displays

3. Hold a candlelight vigil

4. Organize a health fair

5. Screen movies

And we’d love to hear of your own creative ideas for making this week count.

Because it matters–a lot.

Some relevant posts we’ve done that might help inspire, motivate, or arm you with some facts:

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