Become an Advocate for Mental Health and Mental Illness

mental-illness-weekIn 1990, Congress designated the first full week in October as Mental Illness Awareness Week. This year, it takes place Oct. 2-8 with small, medium and large events held to educate the public about mental illness.

But while the week itself is important, mental health advocacy can—and perhaps should—occur throughout the year. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five Americans will experience a mental illness. One in 25 experience a serious mental illness. Mental illness results in more than $192 billion in lost earnings annually.

With the scope of the problem so large—and so costly—raising awareness of mental illness might take longer than a week. Some simple steps:

  • NAMI advocates a three-step pledge to reduce the stigma of mental illness: learn more about mental health; see the person, not the illness; and take action on mental health issues.
  • The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance includes an action center, with links to sample letters and other grassroots initiatives.

Spending time reaching out to Congress may seem impossible, especially when dealing with a mental health crisis day-to-day closer to home. But work on behalf of an individual patient or loved one is equally as important.

  • Fight for improved services. The Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to cover mental health services, without different co-pays and/or deductibles.
  • Find resources when in need. NAMI includes resources for specific mental health events, such as finding a missing person or handling the arrest of a family member.
  • Take care of yourself, as well. Understand how you cope with stress and ensure that you take a few minutes of each day to reset yourself through prayer, meditation and/or exercise.

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Sources:
World Health Organization http://www.who.int/mental_health/resources/en/Advocacy.pdf
National Alliance on Mental Illness http://www.nami.org/Find-Support/Family-Members-and-Caregivers
AARP http://www.aarp.org/home-family/caregiving/info-2014/ways-for-caregivers-to-nurture-themselves.html

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