Mental Illness Awareness Week
By: Meghaa Ravichandran
For many Americans, October marks the beginning of the fall season, but many do not know that the first week also signifies Mental Illness Awareness Week. Following September’s Suicide Prevention Month, from October 3rd to 9th, different days of the week bring attention to various mental disorders.
First established by the U.S. Congress in 1990, the goal of the week was not only to raise awareness for the mental illnesses, but also to increase accessibilities to resources and diagnoses for the affected communities. Recent statistics have revealed that 1 in 5 U.S. adults are living with a mental illness, with anxiety disorders being the most common. The large population of adults and adolescents experiencing this only serves as motivation for many organizations to help erase the stigma and misinformation surrounding mental disorders, which has prevented many from seeking medical assistance.
Engagement during this week can range from social media posts to candlelight vigils to healthcare educational sessions to simply having conversations about some taboo topics. Provided below are some additional suggestions corresponding to the theme of each day. Mark your calendars for the following dates to take part in this year’s Mental Illness Awareness Week as well!
Tuesday, October 5th: National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding
The first step to confronting mental illnesses is understanding what they are. Mental illnesses are medical conditions caused by various factors like stress/family situations/trauma and affect our emotions, day-to-day activities, and relationships. The American Psychiatric Association has published a guide (DSM-5) to the types of conditions that range from serious to mild. All mental illnesses are treatable and occur during various stages of life. Possible treatments include support groups, therapy, counseling, medications, and more.
Thursday October 7th: National Depression Screening Day
Depression, otherwise known as Major Depressive Disorder, is a treatable mental illness that is most commonly portrayed in the media. Causes include genetics, biochemistry, environment, and more. Symptoms have a wide range from weight loss/gain to lack of energy/motivation to thoughts of self-harm. After two weeks of such symptoms, a diagnosis would be given. One in six people are likely to experience depression during their lifetime, with women at a higher risk. Depression and grief are similar, but not interchangeable as the former is pervasive and leads to low self-esteem and more permanent consequences.
Saturday October 9th: NAMIWalks United Day of Hope
Taarika Foundation will be participating in the 2021 NAMIWalks Your Way Silicon Valley event on October 9th to bring the week to a close. Media figures such as 49er’s Offensive Lineman Lake Tomlinson, US Congressman Ro Khanna, Senator Dave Cortese, and Dr. Sara Cody have all voiced their support for the foundation’s efforts. Across the country, various participants will walk for an hour around their neighborhood/city to take a mental break for themselves while promoting awareness to others. Visit the NAMIWalks website for more information: https://www.namiwalks.org/
Sunday October 10th: World Mental Health Day
Recognized by the World Health Organization, World Mental Health Day is a global day designated for mental health advocacy and awareness. First celebrated in 1992, every year has been centered around a theme inspired by current events. The theme for 2021 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic is “Mental Health Care For All: Let’s Make It A Reality”. Former themes include “Move For Mental Health: Let’s Invest”, “Focus on Suicide Prevention”, and “Young People and Mental Health in A Changing World”.
Parekh, Ranna. “What Is Mental Illness?” American Psychiatric Association, Aug. 2018, https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/what-is-mental-illness.
Torres, Felix. “What Is Depression?” American Psychiatric Association, Oct. 2020, https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression.