Mental Illness Awareness Week

Posted by on Oct 1, 2018 in ComLead

Mental Illness Awareness Week

The week of October 7th – 13th is Mental Illness Awareness Week and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has declared this year’s theme as “CureStigma” in an attempt to encourage everyone to eliminate all stigmas against mental illness.

A stigma is when a person views another in a negative light based on a distinguished characteristic that they possess, in this case: mental illness.

Stigmas create an atmosphere or attitude in which someone who needs help feels pressured not to show it for fear of rejection or shame from those around them.

Here are some common examples of stigmas against mental illness:

  • “people who are depressed just want attention”
  • “they can’t be depressed, they have too much to be happy about”
  • “they are bipolar, they’re so unstable”
  • “you’re just a kid, what do you have to feel sad about?”

As NAMI states on their website, “The perception of mental illness won’t change unless we act to change it.”

In reality, 1 in 5 Americans are affected by mental health conditions and suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. 90% of those who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness and it can be preventable with proper treatment and care. With professional and social support, symptoms of mental illness can be reduced and the quality of living for that individual can be improved dramatically. But unfortunately, negative stigmas about mental illness are usually the deciding factors which prevent these people from seeking help.

As a reminder, stigmas do not just come from those on the outside, even those who suffer hold stigmas against themselves. Many people feel that they do not need help because in their mind they do not fit the stereotyped image of mental illness.

We have to understand that mental illness affects everyone in different ways and while one person might have a “clear” more streamlined case of depression with isolation and negative thoughts, others suffer from it in other ways.
You can be depressed and still ace your classes. You can be depressed and still have a loving relationship. And most importantly, you can be depressed and still smile and laugh all day long.

Just because someone does not fit the stereotyped vision of mental illness that we are conditioned to recognize, does not mean that they are not suffering in their own individualized ways.

So take this coming week as an initiative to work towards ending the stigma against mental illness and to educate yourself on how best to show support for those around you and/or to find the support that you need.

There is no shame in seeking help. If you break your foot and cannot walk then you seek professional help to assist with the pain and fix the problem. So why is it so different when that pain or condition comes from somewhere mental and not physical?

Check out some resources to help cure the stigma and provide support for those in need:
NAMI helpline: 800-950-NAMI
Text “NAMI” to 741741
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Canisius College Counseling Center (Open to Graduate students as well):
716-888-2620 – Bosch 105
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Mental Health America

Devon Bradley, M.S. Communication & Leadership ’19


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