Mental Illness Awareness Week, which runs from Oct. 6-12, is an opportunity to learn more about serious mental illnesses such as major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“It’s time to make a difference through dialogue about mental illness throughout our community,” said Tom Hanson, president of NAMI Idaho, and vice president of NAMI-Wood River Valley. “Mental illness does not discriminate. It can strike anyone at any time. Fortunately, recovery is possible. Treatment works if a person can get it.”
One in four adults experiences a mental-health problem in any given year. One in five young people aged 13 to 18 also experience mental illness, according to NAMI. In fact, one half of all mental illness begins by the age or 14—three-quarters by age 24.
Unfortunately, there are long delays—sometimes decades—between the first appearance of symptoms and when people get help. Less than one-third of adults and less than one-half of children with a diagnosed illness receive treatment.
“Everyone should know about the nature of mental illness and the symptoms of different conditions,” Hanson said.
About 42 million Americans live with anxiety disorders including obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. An estimated 1.5 million live with major depression. About 6 million live with bipolar disorder. About 2.6 million live with schizophrenia.
“You are never alone,” said Hanson. “Know where to find help if it’s needed. Most people start with their primary care doctor. Many start by confiding in a close family member or friend. Don’t be afraid to speak up.”
The U.S. surgeon general has reported that stigma is a major barrier to people seeking help when they need it, Hanson said.
“That’s why (this week) is so important. We want people to understand mental illness and join in the conversations throughout our community,” he said. “The more people know, the better they can help themselves or help their loved ones get the support they need.”
Information about specific illnesses, diagnosis and treatment options is available at www.nami.org.