I have a calendar that earmarks every national and global awareness day. I love this calendar – and admire the celebrated days/weeks/months that highlight a significant medical issue or ethical cause. From Arthritis Awareness Day to World Water Week, all kinds of important issues have their set day.

Getting an awareness day campaign is no easy task. It takes many years of momentum from grassroots groups to catch the eye of major organizations and governments to secure such a proclamation. It’s hard work, but the power to reach and teach the public is well worth it.

Though mental illness has a long-standing history in the annals of human nature, it was only in the 1980’s when groups like the National Alliance on Mental Illness, The American Psychological Association and The American Psychiatric Association were able to convince state and federal governments to publicly address the needs of those with mental illness. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan, along with the Congress passed Joint Resolution 322, designating the week of October 7, 1984 as Mental Illness Awareness Week. Luckily, this awareness campaign has continued on for decades both here in the United States and in Canada – as well as sparking similar awareness campaigns in countries all over the world.

Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) doesn’t just help educate the public about the truths and myths surrounding mental illness... or what the warning signs of suicide are...or how the cruel sting of stigma keeps many from getting treatment that can be life changing. MIAW also promotes resources for those who are struggling with mental illness or love someone with a disorder. Such outreach offers support, healing, information and empowerment. And perhaps more important is that during Mental Illness Awareness Week action programs are offered, like free mental health screenings.

Why Screenings are Useful

Screenings for mental health offer tremendous advantages. Here are just a few:

  • Screenings are fast and simple; taking only a few minutes to complete.
  • Screenings are a cost effective way to identify at-risk children and adults.
  • Screenings NOT ONLY identify those at risk, but children and adults who may already be experiencing significant symptoms.
  • Screenings can also highlight subclinical symptoms, enabling early intervention.
  • Screenings lead to lower disorder rates, reduced employer health care costs, reduced absenteeism, enhanced job and school satisfaction, and increased productivity.
  • Screenings results can provide accessible mental health services and supports to those in need.

No Shame Living with Mental Illness

I live with depression and have learned how to manage it. I use my personal experiences in my professional work – which offers me tremendous insight. And while chronic illness is challenging, there are silver linings that come with such a dark cloud. My own mental illness has taken me from sadness to despair, through adversity to resolve. Through it all, I discovered within myself hidden reserves of strength and spirit—what many in the field call resilience. Writing about depression and advocating for those who experience mental illness has become my life’s work. And I hope that my story will serve as an encouraging reminder that depression can be treated . . . and that there should be no shame in living with mental illness.

The heart of human experience beats with moments of joy and flashes of sorrow, and with textures of all kinds of emotions that are good bad and indifferent sprinkled in-between. That’s what life is like. But for those who feel stressed or sad, anxious or alone, or overwhelmed coping with the ins and outs of daily life, it may be time to assess your emotional health.

Mental Illness Awareness Week is October 6th through October 12th in 2013. For a free confidential screening, link here.

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