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?

6 responses to “Mental Illness Awareness Month

  1. I have Borderline Personality Disorder and mental illness seems to be rife in my family. I’ve been running a series on my blog for a while now (you’re welcome to guest post) called Breaking the Code of Silence. It’s aim is to bring the issue of mental illness out of the shadows and into the public domain. It’s not something that should be kept behind closed doors – a little acknowledgement and acceptance from society would go a long way to relieving some of the pressure on those affected.
    Keep up your great work. My father is Bi-Polar and I follow your blog to get an idea of the challenges he faces.

    • Sarah @ bi[polar] curious

      Thanks for your comment, I agree that a little acceptance will go a long way! I hope everyone can do a little something to help get the ball rolling, because opening up is hard, but will definitely help fuel acceptance. Thanks!

  2. You took the words right out of my mouth! Especially about the bullying. Bullying’s only half the problem. The other half, whether or not we want to publicly address it, is mental health. To go as far as to kill oneself over bullies means there’s an underlying mental health problem there that needs to be confronted and parents have to be held responsible for making sure their kids have some solid coping mechanisms in place. But we, as a society don’t address it in that way because somehow mental illness seems too taboo to touch.

    I was just telling prideinmadness, who lives in Canada and often writes about the outreach programs available there, that Canada seems MILES ahead of the US in terms of publicly addressing and educating its citizens about mental health concerns. I mean, accirding to prideinmadness, they have a full-scale inititive in the schools right now. That’s short of unthinkable here in the States. Well, that and Canada insures all its citizens have health care – including mental health care – meaning its citizens don’t have to live in fear that their mental illness will prevent them from working (as mental illness is wont to do) and thus prevent them from getting possibly life-or-death medical care for their mental illness. The comparison between the two countries only highlights how backward we are in the US when it comes to mental illness. Really, it makes me sad and angry. It’s time a movement for the mentally ill rise up and insist it not be something we hide or are ashamed of anymore.

    I’m getting trained to be a peer recovery support specialist. It’s fighting stigma and ignorance at the grassroots level, but I’d like be on the ground floor of something big and public, too.

    • Sarah @ bi[polar] curious

      YES. Thank you, honestly I was a little nervous about writing what I did about bullying because I haven’t heard anyone else say anything about it, but the mental health portion seems like the natural conclusion to me! I understand the desire to stop bullying, but if we don’t help kids be more emotionally resilient the problem wont stop. There will always be those (excuse me) assholes who treat others badly, we’ll never rid the world of people with that demeanor.

      I think you’re absolutely right about Canada. I have friends who have moved all across the globe in order to receive better health care than we have in the US, and I think that is something else that isn’t ever addressed. Some of the smartest people I know have moved out of the country to live and work because they can’t get what they need here. America hemorrhaging brilliant minds? Yep.

      My boyfriend asked me a couple months ago, “are you secretly starting an underground fight-club army of people with mental illness?!?”

      I said, “no. But now I want to.”

      I’ve heard good things about those peer positions, that’s pretty exciting! I have half a mind to start my own organization at this point, because the ones in my locality have let me down. I need something where young people (or anyone for that matter) can feel like they’re making a difference in some way while fighting the stigma. Seattle has grown by leaps and bounds around LGBT stigma, and I feel like we’re on deck to bat next.

      Thanks for sharing thoughts you are clearly passionate about. I definitely appreciate it, it is a good reminder I’m not the only one who cares.

  3. Right on! I’m going to get some green ribbon!

  4. Pingback: PLEASE READ! I Need YOUR Help! « …But She's Crazy

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