This week marks the annual Mental Illness Awareness Week. During this week, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and its supporters dedicate themselves to spreading awareness and understanding of mental illness across the country through support, education, and advocacy.
Eating disorders are the deadliest mental illness, so taking a week to highlight the importance of mental illness awareness is necessary and vital. In honor of this week, here are some reasons why talking about mental illness is so important:
1. More people are impacted than you may think.
Everyone is impacted by mental illness in some way, whether they personally struggle or they know someone who does. A 2015 study by the National Institute for Mental Health found that nearly 1 in 5 – 43.8 million – American adults suffer from a mental illness in any given year. Adolescents ages 13-18 are also impacted by mental illness as 21.4% of them will experience a severe mental illness at some point in their life. Other studies report that these numbers may be even higher but cannot be accurately recorded as a result of people being unable to come forward about their struggle.
2. Information and awareness must increase.
Talking about mental illness can help those struggling realize they are not alone on their way to recovery and that they are not the only one who feels the way they do. For those who are not affected by mental illness firsthand, the conversation about mental illness can help inform them about risk factors, symptoms, treatment, and prevention methods, which will allow them to then help the people around them. This can make for a society that is more informed and accepting about mental illness.
3. The stigma can be eliminated.
The stigma towards mental illness often causes people to feel isolated, stereotyped, shameful, or discriminated against, all of which can hinder recovery. By talking openly and showing there is more to someone than their mental illness, people can see that no one has to be defined by that alone.
4. Treatment is crucial.
The combination of the above reasons may help someone realize that while what they’re experiencing is a serious issue, help is available. This is imperative because people who live with mental illness are more likely to develop other chronic medical conditions and die earlier than others, usually as a result of treatable conditions. Seeking out treatment can be the first step in improving the rest of life.
The more people openly discuss mental illness, the easier it is to do so. One conversation can start a chain reaction of conversation. To learn more about Mental Illness Awareness Week and how to support the National Alliance on Mental Illness, visit nami.org.
For recovery resources and treatment options, please visit our help and support page. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, call ANAD’s Helpline at: (888) 375-7767 or the National Alliance of Eating Disorders Helpline at: (866) 662-1235.
If you are thinking about suicide, call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. In crisis situations, text “NEDA” to 741741 to be connected with a trained volunteer from the Crisis Text Line.
Olivia Clancy is a sophomore at New York University studying applied psychology and child and adolescent mental health studies. She plans on using her own experiences with mental illness to help others in her future career as a clinical psychologist.