This week marks the beginning of Mental Illness Awareness Week which runs from October 4th-October 10th. In 1990 the U.S. Congress established Mental Illness Awareness Week in recognition of efforts by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) with the goal of education and increasing awareness about mental illness.
The whole week is focused on learning more about particular mental illnesses all with the goal of reducing the stigma around mental illness. Weeks like this are incredibly important because even though the stigma has decreased surrounding mental illness it unfortunately still exists. We can all work together to reduce the stigma by educating ourselves and having conversations with friends and loved ones. Ultimately it is crucial that each and every person who has a mental health condition feels like they can get the help they need and deserve.
There are many organizations which are doing different things throughout the week this year to raise awareness. Mental Health America (MHA) is discussing 7 different mental illnesses and 7 actions we can all take during Mental Illness Awareness Week. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is focusing on sharing stories of individuals who have lived experience. Their theme for the week is “What People with Mental Illness Want You to Know.” By reading stories from people who have lived experience hopefully more people will feel less alone on their mental health journey and will know it is okay to ask for help.
You can also get involved with Mental Illness Awareness Week on social media. Following different accounts like MHA or NAMI is a good action step to take or you could create a post to help raise awareness and increase the conversation.
I encourage each and every one of you to take time this week to educate yourself further on mental illness. What are your beliefs towards mental illness? What do you know about mental illness? What treatment options are available for people who have a mental illness? What type of language should you use that will decrease the stigma? Ask yourself the hard questions surrounding mental illness and take time to do a little bit of research. Once you learn more about mental illness, take time to have conversations with friends and loved ones. If we want to see the stigma decrease, we need to have more conversations surrounding mental illness. You do not have to be a mental health professional to educate yourself or to have conversations. We can all work together to raise awareness.
Katie Zimmerman, Project Coordinator for The Kim Foundation
Katie Zimmerman joined The Kim Foundation in June 2019. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies and Sociology from Central College in Pella, Iowa. During her time in college, she volunteered at many non-profit organizations and took multiple sociology classes which focused on mental health. Katie’s role at The Kim Foundation includes running the social media accounts, assisting in the Youth Advisory Council, and providing mental health awareness and education to the community through A Voice for Hope and Healing presentations.