Mental illness awareness week: Become a stigma buster!

Every year, Mental Illness Awareness Week is held during the first full week of October. In 2015, it takes place October 4th through the 10th. During this time, organizations and people across the United States exchange information on mental illness and treatment, learning new ways to combat mental illness and eliminate stigma and discrimination.

The 2015 theme of Mental Illness Awareness Week focuses on starting a movement through the new StigmaFree initiative. StigmaFree means learning about mental illness and educating others on the subject, encouraging the public to view those with mental illness as unique individuals rather than a diagnosis. StigmaFree advocates taking action on mental health issues and asks individuals to take the StigmaFree pledge. The hashtag for the theme is #IAmStigmaFree, the pledge reads:

“As a supporter to those who have a mental illness or substance use disorder, I understand the importance of recognizing the high prevalence of mental illness and substance use disorders. I also know that when recognition is coupled with reeducation and understanding, health-seeking action can be taken. These actions lead to recovery, which is possible for everyone.

The three Rs, (recognize, reeducate and reduce) depend on each other to effectively Stamp Out Stigma surrounding mental illness and substance use disorders. This is what I, as an individual, charge myself to do – to fully Stamp Out Stigma and clear the path to health-seeking behavior. It begins with me.”

The pledge can be signed online. Those taking the pledge will receive periodic campaign updates. Companies and organizations can contact NAMI to learn more and participate in a tailored partnership to meet their needs.

In addition to the pledge, NAMI recommends getting the local community involved by being an advocate for mental health awareness, sharing mental illness stories with people and using graphics and messages to highlight the cause on social media. NAMI celebrates the 13th anniversary of the mental health awareness and fundraising event NAMIWalks in 2015.

In the United Kingdom, the mental health charity Time to Change works to end discrimination against people with mental illness. They are run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness with funding from the Department of Health, Comic Relief and the Big Lottery Fund. The group consists of individuals across England and began in 2007. One of their goals is to have conversation about mental illness be an unremarkable and everyday occurrence.

Time to Change fights stigma and empowers people to speak openly about their mental health experiences in addition to changing the attitudes and behavior of the public toward those with mental health problems.

Sue Baker, director of Time to Change, wrote for CNN and said that on World Mental Health Day, October 10, people around the world will be raising awareness of mental health issues, challenging outdated views and putting an end to life-limiting and sometimes life-threatening stigma and discrimination. According to the World Health organization (WHO) approximately 450 million people worldwide have a mental illness but encounter negative reactions if they disclose their illness. Baker said 9 in 10 people tell Time to Change that they face stigma and discrimination due to a mental health problem.

If you or a loved one is facing challenges due to mental illness, help is available. For information regarding mental illness and treatment methods, please call the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline at any time.