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You may have heard of Mental Health Awareness Month, but did you know about Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW)? Set up in 1990 by the U.S. Congress, MIAW occurs each year during the first full week of October and highlights the work done by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). This year, NAMI wants to #CureStigma, and they’re doing this by providing resources to raise mental illness awareness across the nation.

Why does all this matter, you ask? Because, according to NAMI’s statistics, one in five Americans is affected by mental health conditions. That’s a lot, considering how much stigma exists around the conversation. It’s time to break those barriers.

Other reasons to pay attention:

1 Stigma = Silence. Silence = Struggle.

The stigma surrounding mental illness not only prevents us from having necessary dialogue, but it also keeps those who are struggling from seeking help due to shame and fear. By fostering an open and nurturing environment, we can shift perceptions and encourage those who need help to get the assistance they need.

2 Someone You Know Is Being Affected.

As previously noted, one in five folks are dealing with mental health conditions. That’s 43.8 million in a given year. Additionally, in a given year, 1 in 25 adults in America—or 9.8 million—experiences a serious mental illness “that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.”

3 Education Is Important.

The more you know, the more equipped you are to help others—or yourself. Openly discussing mental illness not only helps those struggling realize they’re not alone, but those who aren’t affected by mental illness can teach others about symptoms, prevention, and more. Educating yourself also leads to more treatment, which brings us to our next point.

4 Treatment Is Paramount.

According to NAMI, just 41 percent of American adults who have a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year, while 62.9 percent of American adults with a serious mental health condition received mental health services in the past year.

“Mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymic disorder, and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults aged 18–44,” NAMI adds. “Individuals living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions. Adults in the U.S. living with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than others, largely due to treatable medical conditions.”

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