Daily Archives: May 15, 2012

Mental Illness Awareness Month

Did anyone know that May is Mental Illness Awareness Month?

No? Me either. And I have a mental illness. So that’s just sad.

When I discovered this fact this morning I was even more baffled to read that this  was started in 1949.

So why doesn’t anyone seem to know about it?

Are non-profits in your area reaching out to the public? Have you seen anything on the local (or national) news about this? Have you seen anyone sporting a green (as that’s the designated color) ribbon?

I was recently completely thrown off when I tried contacting a local mental health organization, only to get a response a few weeks later that the organization was run by volunteers who couldn’t get along, and therefore couldn’t answer my questions.

From what I’ve seen, the goal of most mental health organizations is to help people get mental health care, which (don’t get me wrong) is a very admirable goal. There is a lot of concern that there isn’t enough mental health care to go around for everyone who needs it, but it seems like if there was more public outreach there would be more knowledge about what is going on and more opportunity for funding for these programs.

But, as I usually assure people, I’m no business man.

To put this into perspective a little bit, statistics suggest 1 in 8 American women (and a non-specific number of men) are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Consider the sheer amount of fundraising you see (marathons, etc.) that go toward breast cancer research. The sea of pink ribbons and t-shirts you can find at any given time during breast cancer awareness month. People are proud to support someone who has/has had breast cancer.

Now, just to compare a little bit, 1 in 5 Americans (both men and women combined) are said to have a mental illness. Obviously I am a little biased here, but why doesn’t this have an army of green-shirted, marathon running athletes raising funds?

I know there are people that will be appalled by that comparison, but what is the difference between one major illness and another? I can’t think of an answer that isn’t entirely based on stigma except that breast cancer treatment can potentially eradicate breast cancer, whereas there is no treatment that eradicates mental illness.

The death toll around mental illness has been rising, but it hasn’t been called that in the media. Bullying (which has been linked to be potentially caused by depression) has been called the cause of the widespread number of teen suicides across the country. Bullying, a potential symptom of depression, causing the victims to develop depression, then suicide occurs. The media does not address the mental illness aspect of this situation, and if the media doesn’t address mental illness, how are people supposed to know about it? If they don’t know about it, how could they have a chance at understanding it?

All I’m saying is that I don’t think we are giving people a chance to understand. When even many of the non-profit organizations are as guarded as those that are living with mental illness, I can’t imagine seeing change any time soon.

That said, I am making it a personal goal to make (at least) 100 green ribbon pins to give away to people on the street over the rest of May.

I’d like to challenge you to think of just one way you can be involved in Mental Illness Awareness Month. It could be as simple as being open about your experiences related to mental illness to someone who hasn’t heard about them before, making a donation to a non-profit organization that is centered around mental health, or even just making a green ribbon pin and wearing it yourself.

What can you do to help instigate change?