Kathy Rohr, Coordinator of Community Support Programs, Family & Children’s Center

In 1990, the United States Congress established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) in recognition of the need to raise awareness about this topic. It has been celebrated every year since, with activities large and small and involvement by many individuals, agencies and communities. This year it takes place October 4-10.

Mental health is an important part of our overall wellness. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), mental health issues are common – one in five Americans will experience them at some point in their lives. Mental health issues include such disorders as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Mental health issues are health problems like other health problems, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease. As such, it is not necessary to be ashamed of these issues or disorders. Many people do not seek treatment due to worry about being labeled.

At Family & Children’s Center, we ask people to take the opportunity during this special week to better understand that mental health disorders are treatable and recovery is possible. It is also an opportunity for us to start a discussion with those we love about mental health and disclose our experience with others.

In looking at the statistics, it is clear that most of us will be impacted by mental illness, through our own experience or that of someone we know. I myself have been the recipient of mental health treatment and have benefitted greatly. Treatment for depression (including inpatient treatment and therapy) taught me skills which I can apply to other areas of my life and I benefitted from taking medication. By sharing openly about mental health, we decrease the stigma that keeps people from seeking treatment. You can make a difference for your loved ones and community by making an effort to be open about mental health, disclose and support others who disclose. There is simply no need for us to neglect this part of our health any more. Your story opens the door for others – to understand and to get better.