Mental illness is a medical condition, but it is often surrounded by stigma or stereotypes that prevent people from getting the help they need. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in 5 Americans lives with a mental health condition. And, approximately half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by the age of 14. Unfortunately, long delays − sometimes decades – often occur between the time symptoms first appear and when people get help. Early identification and treatment is critical, especially when mental illness can lead to suicide. More than 40,000 people die by suicide every year in the United States and 90% of those who commit suicide have an underlying mental health problem.
Mental health disorders can range from autism to schizophrenia to anxiety and more. Far too often, people are embarrassed or ashamed to discuss these conditions with friends or family, which can lead to lack of treatment. In fact, just over half of people in the United States with a serious mental illness receive treatment.
It’s past time for us to encourage and enable open conversations about mental illness. October 2-8 is Mental Illness Awareness Week, which aims to remove the stigma of talking about mental illness. Here are some steps you can take to provide support, educate friends and family, and help advocate for equal care:
The National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery & Understanding is October 4. Encourage your faith community to shine the light on mental illness.
National Depression Screening Day is October 6. If you or someone you know needs help, take the free mental health screening at HelpYourselfHelpOthers.org
Educate yourself and help educate others. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) offers health information and free easy-to-read publications on various mental disorders on its website in the Health & Education section.
Learn the warning signs. Mental illness doesn’t have a simple diagnostic process like diabetes or high cholesterol. While all people and all mental illnesses are, of course, not alike, there are some symptoms to watch out for. NAMI has a helpful list to check out.
Above all, don’t be afraid to reach out if you or someone you know needs help. Learning all you can about mental health is an important first step. If you or someone you know are in crisis, and need immediate support or intervention go to the website of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 1-800-273-8255. Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Employee Assistance Network has been helping companies and government organizations across Western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee for more than 30 years. We are a recognized leading provider of Employee Assistance Programs, managed behavioral healthcare services and work-related training and education programs. For more information or to download our overview brochure please visit www.eannc.com.