Mental Illness Awareness Week - History, Significance, & Treatment

Every year in the US, the first week of October is honored as the Mental Illness Awareness Week. Mental health conditions are essential to discuss every year. Highlighting these issues during this week offers a dedicated time for everyone to come together and advocate in a unified manner. 


About Mental Illness Awareness Week



Every year, millions of American citizens face the gruesome reality of living with at least one mental health condition. However, mental illness can affect lots of lives directly and indirectly. It is not just the person going through the same; it is also their family, friends, acquaintances, etc. This is why, every year in the first week of October, Mental Illness Awareness Week is celebrated across the country to raise awareness about mental illnesses. The week also aims at fighting against the discrimination arising out of mental illnesses and offer support to those who need it the most. 


It dates back to 1990 when Congress established the first whole week of October as the Mental Illness Awareness Week. People and mental health advocates come together to raise awareness, talk, sponsor activities, and educate people about mental illnesses.  


About the organizer


Every year, the Mental Illness Awareness Week organizer is the country’s largest grassroots mental health organization - NAMI, also known as the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The organization is dedicated to building better lives for millions of American citizens plagued by mental illnesses. 


Today, NAMI is the leading voice for mental illnesses in the country. 




This year, the Mental Illness Awareness Week centers around a new awareness campaign - “Together For Mental Health.” This campaign focuses on the importance of advocating better mental health care for people with Serious Mental Illnesses (SMI) and conditions. Every day through the entire week, awareness will be raised, and the organizers talk about SMI and the necessity to improve the mental health care system in the country and its crisis response. 



October 3rd, 2021 - October 9th, 2021


About Mental Illnesses 


What are mental illnesses?



Mental illnesses are health concerns affecting the way people think about themselves, relate to others around them, and interact with people worldwide. These illnesses affect people’s thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. A mental illness can easily disrupt one’s life and create multiple barriers and challenges. However, with the proper support, people can get back on the path to their wellness and recovery. 


It is significant to understand the type of mental illnesses and how they can affect people in various ways. Within every mental illness, people can have different sets of personalized challenges and symptoms. However, symptoms are just one fragment of this reality. Access to the right services and help, support from loved ones, and their ability to participate in communities around them, plays a big part in how someone can experience a mental illness. The culture, background, and personal beliefs also help shape the way they understand mental illnesses. 


While some might not find it essential to get a name to their diagnosis, others can prefer having medical terminologies describe their concerns and illnesses. No matter how they talk about their experiences, people are likely to use medical terminologies when seeking healthcare system help. It is how the system currently functions. However, this should not be the only way. People should learn how to talk about mental illnesses without stigma. 


Different mental illnesses



Healthcare professionals have divided various mental illnesses into different categories and groups based on their signs and symptoms. The most commonly found mental illnesses groups include:


1. Anxiety Disorders 


All anxiety disorders are related to anxiety. They can include uncontrollable worry, excessive thinking, intense fears related to everyday situations and things, unwanted/intrusive thoughts, panic attacks, fears in context to a past situation, etc. Anxiety disorder is one of the most common mental illnesses and can create considerable barriers in people’s lives. Panic disorders and phobias are typical examples of anxiety disorders. 


2. Mood Disorder 


A mood disorder can affect a person’s mood daily. They intervene in the way people can feel. This affects their entire life. When people experience a mood disorder, they can feel hopeless, sad, tired, and even numb for longer durations. At times, people can experience an unusually high mood after experiencing all the hopelessness and sadness for some time. They can also feel powerful and energetic after all the highs they experience. This can create multiple problems for them daily. Depression and bipolar disorders are examples of this. 


3. Eating Disorder 


Eating disorders usually have nothing to do with food. They are a complicated mental illness that is seen to cope with complex problems or regain control over things. Eating disorders include severe restrictions on how much one can eat. It also has extreme bingeing or purging of food. Bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa are prime examples of the same. 


4. Psychotic disorders 


Psychotic disorders are severe health concerns affecting the fundamental understanding of people. It tempers with their thinking on what is real and what is not accurate. People with psychotic disorders sense things that are often not real or strongly believe in something that cannot be real. The prime example of a psychotic disorder is Schizophrenia. 


5. Personality disorder 


A personality disorder is related to patterns of thoughts, behaviors, and feelings that can last for a very long time, posing multiple challenges in people’s lives. People who have a personality disorder often struggle with developing strong, healthy relationships with others that are satisfactory. They find it challenging to manage their emotions, avoid harmful behaviors and work towards their desired life goals. Personality disorders can affect people’s understanding of themselves and others around them and the sense that helps them cope with problems. Borderline Personality Disorder is an example of this. 


6. Childhood disorders 


Childhood disorders are a large group of different mental illnesses that have affected people’s lives since they were young. Most people suffering from childhood disorders are not even diagnosed until they turn older. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD is one example of a childhood disorder affecting a person’s life, ability to focus and concentrate, complete their daily tasks, plan and organize their life, sit still, or think through things. 


How can you contribute?



It is highly distressing to experience a mental illness. People often wonder if they will ever feel like themselves again. People might never know what is happening to them and can worry about other’s reactions. It is essential to know that it is not the person’s fault. It is not a sign of weakness to experience a mental illness. You must reach out to help them. Helping them find solutions helps them get on the path to recovery faster, reducing the additional risks and other problems in their future. 


Treatment for all mental illnesses includes different approaches, for example, counseling, self-care, and medication. Support groups also help connect people and share experiences with other people who experience similar mental illnesses. There are also multiple self-help strategies. Supporting your loved ones at home and finding them the right help can do wonders in their life. Every person has a different pace of recovery, different goals, and preferences. To help contribute to this Mental Illness Awareness Week, you should help those around you find the right help at your local health care centers. 



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