Tag Archives: Mental Illness Awareness Week

Seven Ways to Support Awareness during Mental Illness Awareness Week

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“Are you okay?”
“How are you doing?”
“Do you want to talk?”

From time to time, many of us can’t help but feel the stress of pressures in our daily life. But for the nearly one in five Americans who suffer from mental health disorders each year, hearing one of these questions just might prompt action to speak up about the help that they need.

Sensitivities and fear of stigma around mental health issues may lead to a response of “Yes, I’m fine,” when “No, I’m not” might be closer to the truth. The effort to destigmatize mental health disorders gains more and more momentum each year, but there is still more that can be done. During this Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 4-10), we at AstraZeneca compiled the following list that provides steps you can take to better understand mental health disorders and where to go for resources.

Seven Ways to Support Awareness during Mental Illness Awareness Week

  1. Sign the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) StigmaFree Pledge. By signing the pledge, you can commit to learn more about mental illness, see a person for who they are and raise awareness about mental health issues. Don’t forget to highlight your commitment on Twitter or Facebook with #IamStigmaFree.
  1. Take a Mental Health America (MHA) mental health screening — and encourage others to do the same. MHA offers quick and easy tools to help you determine if you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health issue for everything ranging from depression to anxiety.
  1. Complete a Depression and Bipolar Disorder Alliance (DBSA) Personal Wellness Checklist — and print out copies for your workplace. By taking the time to understand your wellness needs, you’ve taken an important step to improve your personal wellness.
  1. Consider donating to the mental health advocacy organization of your choice to support their efforts to provide education and resources to those who need it.
  1. Volunteer your time to projects designed to promote good mental health. Organizations like DoSomething.org connect young people with campaigns that give back, like the Heart on Your Sleeve initiative, which empowers teens to decrease stigma around school counseling services.
  1. Learn how to talk about mental health with friends and family. This resource from MentalHealth.gov even features recommended questions you can ask your loved one to start the conversation about mental health.
  1. Make an effort to understand mental health challenges by reading stories from people who have learned to manage or overcome their illness, found here from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

By participating in efforts to elevate the dialogue around the facts of mental health disorders, we can help to create a culture in which those who need help no longer fear seeking it, and when the time comes, they know where to go for resources that will offer support. We encourage you to share this list with your networks and anyone who may be struggling with concerns about their own mental health or that of a loved one.

Mental Health America and AZ to Promote Screening and Early Intervention for Mental Illness Awareness Week

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By Theresa Nguyen, LCSW, Strategic Policy Analyst, Mental Health America

Theresa Nguyen, LCSW, Strategic Policy Analyst, Mental Health America

Theresa Nguyen, LCSW, Strategic Policy Analyst, Mental Health America

When we feel a nagging pain in our chest or see a strange mole on our skin, we’re usually comfortable asking our doctor to run tests to identify potential health problems. If we have a hard time getting out of bed, feel unnaturally agitated, or just feel like “something’s not right,” we often don’t know what’s going on or who to turn to.

Many who suffer with mental illness suffer in silence. We often suffer for months or years before seeking help. We don’t know how to make sense of what we feel. We don’t know how to tell our families or friends. Most don’t know what treatment is, or where and how to get help. Unfortunately hospitalization is often the first mental health intervention for many suffering from mental illness. As a clinician, I have had many families tell me, “We didn’t realize what was going on, but looking back it’s so clear now. We wish we could have gotten help earlier.”

With cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, we usually don’t wait years to provide treatment. We have strong public health campaigns that promote education, early screening and treatment; but screening and treatment is just as essential for mental health. Identifying mental health problems early saves lives.

Healthcare professionals try to intervene for physical illnesses before they can reach stage 4, and we should have the same approach for mental illness. Treating mental illness before it reaches “stage 4” keeps people in school, helps them get and keep jobs, helps them stay connected to their family and friends, and ultimately helps people feel better. In other words, with early screening and treatment, what we’re really offering is life.

If the mental health community is serious about helping people and families in the fight against mental illness, we must promote education, early screening and treatment. Since Mental Health America launched MHAScreening.org in April 2014, over 120,000 screens have been taken by people across the US and internationally. People are looking for help and when they don’t know where to turn, many start on the internet. Online screening tools provide a private way to identify potential mental health problems, to learn more about what treatments are available, and even reach out to get help for the first time. Of those who screened and reported moderately severe to severe mental health problems, around 60% had never been diagnosed. Since diagnosis is often the first step in treatment, a majority of those who screened and need help may not be getting help. The earlier we can reach populations at risk for mental health disorders with our screening tools, the earlier they can receive the treatment they need.

MHA b4stage4 imageMental Health America (MHA) is proud to partner with AstraZeneca to act B4Stage4. At MHA, we believe in prevention for all, early identification and intervention for those at risk, integrated health and behavioral health treatment for those who need it, and recovery as a goal. Screening is an integral part of prevention, early identification and intervention.

This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week 2014. Join Mental Health America, AstraZeneca, and our other partners and affiliates in promoting early intervention for mental illness through MHAScreening.org and #B4Stage4. As a community, we must work together to shift the conversations around mental health and help people obtain hopeful and meaningful lives.

Mental Illness Awareness Week Highlights Available Resources

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By Mary Giliberti, Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness

Mary Giliberti, Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness

Mary Giliberti, Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness

Today marks the beginning of 2014’s Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), which provides an opportunity to inspire conversations about mental health care, helping to end the silence that often surrounds mental illness and bringing help and hope to people affected by these conditions.

In 1990, the U.S. Congress established the first full week of October as MIAW in recognition of efforts by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to raise public awareness about mental illness as a significant health condition. Each year since then, mental health advocates across the country have joined with others in their communities to sponsor activities, large or small, for public education about signs and symptoms of mental illness, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other conditions.

Today, MIAW includes the National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding (Oct. 7) and National Depression Screening Day (Oct. 9).

For many people it comes as a surprise to learn that one in four adults experience a mental health problem ever year. One in five children and teens also live with mental illness. One-half of cases of mental illness begin by the age of 14 and three-quarters by age 24, distinguishing mental illness from other chronic health conditions, which often begin later in life.

Unfortunately, there are long delays−sometimes decades−between the time symptoms first appear and when people get help. Early identification and treatment can make a difference for successful management of an illness and recovery, but only one-third of adults and less than one-half of children with mental illness receive treatment.

MIAW aims to educate the public to recognize symptoms and understand the importance of getting help early. With the right services and supports, people can and do recover. NAMI offers support to those affected by providing free education classes and support groups, which play an important role in helping individuals with mental illness, their friends and families get information and support.

Thanks to AstraZeneca’s support, NAMI also will be launching a new social media in 2015 to broaden our ability to help people affected by mental illness.

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Niagra Falls, lit up green for Mental Illness Awareness Week

During MIAW, people are also encouraged to wear green to help raise public awareness. Green is the traditional symbol of hope and renewal—themes which are important to NAMI’s vision of resiliency, recovery and wellness in working to improve the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.

“Going green” can be as simple as wearing a green ribbon or green shoelaces or painting your fingernails. You might want to arrange for a landmark, such as a school or church, to be illuminated in green light at night. No matter how we bring attention to this critical issue, the goal is to initiate conversations about mental illness.

The more people know, the better they can help themselves, their families and their communities.  MIAW is a time to learn. It is a time to raise awareness. It is a time to make a difference.

Information about mental health conditions, recovery, and treatment options is available from NAMI at www.nami.org or from our HelpLine at 1-800-950-6264.

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Addressing the Unmet Need of Bipolar Disorder During National Observance

By Catherine Datto, MD, MS, AstraZeneca

Each year, more than 5.7 million adults in the U.S. are diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood swings with manic highs and depressive lows.  The condition can be debilitating, and if symptoms are not adequately controlled, they can have a significant impact on a person’s well-being and relationships.

Since symptoms of bipolar disorder can be difficult to distinguish from other mental illnesses, the disorder can go under-recognized and undertreated.  According to a survey conducted by the National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association, 69% of patients with bipolar disorder are misdiagnosed initially and on average, 68% of the patient populations consulted up to four physicians before being properly diagnosed.

Finding the balance between the highs and lows – where patients can feel most like themselves – is important to their health. However, more than one-third of patients could wait 10 years or more to receive a proper diagnosis.With the theme of this year’s Mental Illness Awareness Week observance being “It’s Time to Make a Difference,” we must take this opportunity to educate both health care providers and patients about reaching an appropriate diagnosis and how to properly manage the highs and lows characterized by bipolar disorder.

AstraZeneca believes that public education about both disease states and available therapies is an essential step in the patient pathway to diagnosis and care. During Mental Illness Awareness Week and year round, AstraZeneca is committed to researching and identifying solutions that can help patients manage the highs and lows of bipolar disorder.