Depending upon the research reviewed, it is estimated that at any time, approximately 20% of the population is dealing with a mental illness. Statistically, this means if you are a family of five, it is likely someone has a diagnosable mental illness. This high prevalence is one of the main reasons for mental health awareness campaigns.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) recognizes the importance of mental health awareness and includes awareness as part of its mission. NAMI sees emphasizing mental health awareness as a benefit for not only people dealing with mental illness, but for all people. Each of us impacts the other, and with the proper insight and understanding, we can do in encouraging and supportive ways.
Many people do not recognize that they’re experiencing untreated mental health disorders. Through mental health awareness campaigns, people learn what both mental health and illness look, sound, and feel like. Mental health awareness helps people recognize symptoms characterizing mental health disorders. Changes in sleep habits and appetite, impulsive decision making, and increased use of alcohol and/or other drugs may be symptoms of serious mental health disorders. Symptom recognition can indirectly and directly influence the decisions people make to seek help for themselves or those close to them.
Mental health awareness campaigns inform people of resources they can use to address their mental health concerns. Coupling a better understanding of symptoms and their significance with an improved awareness of available resources, increases the potential for people to access treatment services. Better awareness of how to navigate the network of available treatment providers increases the likelihood that people seeking treatment like 12-Step programs, medical detox, outpatient counseling programs, and/or mental health hospitals, will access it.
Maybe the most significant benefit of mental health awareness is the progress made towards breaking the stigma people experience when they have a mental health disorder. Despite the fact that mental health issues impact millions of people, directly or indirectly, there is still a negative connotation associated with these diagnoses. The fear of judgment by others, loss of employment, and/or loss of friends or loved ones, may prevent people who need care from seeking and/or accepting treatment. Positive and true messages regarding mental illness, shared by real people with ‘lived experience’ – meaning, they cope with mental illness themselves, help to convey how mental wellness is a human responsibility.
Awareness is a form of education. The more the general public is aware of the prevalence of mental health issues; the resources and availability of treatment; and how they can assist people with mental illness, the more we will all benefit. We should do what we can to learn more about mental health!