Early October: Mental Illness Awareness Week

Content reviewed by Karen Rubenstein, LMFT, Chief Clinical Officer at Cliffside Malibu

Every year, millions of individuals are affected by mental health conditions. While many people experience mental illness directly, others experience it indirectly through family members, friends, coworkers and other loved ones.

Despite the prevalence of mental illness, there is still a heavy stigma placed on those who struggle with mental health. To challenge these stigmas, bring education and awareness to mental illness and encourage treatment and support for those who struggle, the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) highlights the first week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW). In 2022, MIAW will run from October 2nd through the 8th.

The Value of Mental Illness Awareness Week

Mental Illness Awareness Week is important because it reminds individuals to acknowledge their own mental health struggles as well as those of others. Throughout the month of October, as well as MIAW, individuals can become educated about what mental illness is, how it affects people in different ways and why many people may not seek treatment, even when they are actively struggling.

Highlighting the Prevalence of Mental Illness

One of the reasons MIAW is so valuable is that it brings awareness to the high prevalence of mental illness in the United States. Mental illnesses can wreak havoc on the lives of individuals everywhere. In 2020, nearly 52.9 million Americans were struggling with a mental illness. In other words, nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness at any given moment.

Mental illnesses are defined as mental, behavioral and emotional disorders that vary in impact. Most of these disorders interfere with the individual’s ability to function normally in their daily life in some way. Everyone who struggles with a mental illness will experience it differently from everyone else, even those who have the same disorder. These illnesses can range in intensity and severity and can lead to a number of unique symptoms.

Some of the most common mental health disorders include, but are not limited to:

Substance Use Disorder as a Mental Illness

It is especially important to highlight SUD as an incredibly prevalent mental health illness that hundreds of thousands of individuals struggle with at any given time. More often than not, SUD will co-occur with other mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, and vice versa. MIAW also works to shed light on the fact that SUD is a mental illness that requires professional treatment to overcome.

Addressing Stigma of Mental Illness

MIAW is also beneficial in that it addresses and challenges the hurtful stigmas associated with mental illnesses. Throughout daily life, mental health and mental illness are often disregarded and stereotyped. Many people who live with mental illness have experienced judgment from others — who may or may not be struggling themselves — due to lack of education, lack of experience and general ignorance. MIAW provides an opportunity to educate people who may not understand the true nature of mental illnesses, why they occur and how they can be treated.

A common stigma associated with individuals who struggle with mental illness is that they are dangerous, crazy or incompetent. This harmful stigma developed hundreds of years ago, before the development of psychology and psychiatry, when society did not have the right tools to understand how mental illnesses affected individuals. Still, even after years of research confirming that mental illnesses are treatable diseases, the inaccurate stigma continues to spread among individuals who remain uneducated about the nature of mental health disorders.

These stigmas cause individuals to fear or misunderstand those who struggle with their mental health. Similarly, they cause individuals who are struggling to postpone or avoid seeking professional treatment. NAMI uses MIAW as an opportunity to fight discrimination and encourage those struggling to seek support.

How to Get Involved in MIAW

There are many ways individuals can get involved in MIAW. The most influential thing the average person can do during this week and beyond is challenging the stigmas and stereotypes associated with mental illness. Further, they can educate others about mental illnesses and how they affect the lives of individuals everywhere. Below are two other ways to get involved:

#1. Learn about available treatment options.

Whether an individual struggles with mental illnesses directly or not, they can advocate for mental health by learning about and promoting treatment options for individuals who need them. They can become knowledgeable about what treatment programs and therapy options local treatment centers offer. Similarly, individuals can learn what types of treatments are most effective in treating specific conditions.

For example, co-occurring disorders — meaning the presence of a mental illness and SUD that occur simultaneously — are most effectively treated when both conditions are treated at the same time. Individualized treatment plans tend to be most effective for treating all mental health conditions, as these plans take into account an individual’s unique symptoms, treatment goals and all other factors that may have contributed to the development of their conditions.

#2. Speak out about mental health.

Another way individuals can get involved is by speaking out about mental health. While it isn’t easy to discuss any active struggles one may be experiencing, individuals can start by speaking out about the obstacles they have overcome throughout their mental health journey. Encourage family members and friends to talk about mental health, especially when it’s difficult.

Social media has come a long way in the last several years. Individuals can use social media platforms to shed light on mental health education, support resources and treatment options. Make it known that if someone is struggling, an individual can serve as a support system to encourage their healing journey.

Cliffside Malibu is an addiction treatment facility that recognizes the impact that mental health can have on the development of substance use disorder and its associated symptoms. We offer a range of treatment programs and options, including treatment for co-occurring disorders, for anyone seeking refuge from the consequences of substance use. To learn more about our luxury treatment facility, give us a call today at (855) 403-5641.