What You Can Do For Mental Illness Awareness Week
Thursday, September 30 2010 Natasha Tracy
Next week is Mental Illness Awareness Week in Canada and the US. It's our week to get out, speak up and be heard. It's our week not to be ashamed of our illness or the illness of our loved ones. It's our week to march, write, Twitter, Facebook, talk and tell politicians how important issues of mental illness are.
But what if you don't want the world knowing you have a mental illness?
What is Mental Illness Awareness Week?
In 1990, the U.S. Congress established the first week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) in recognition of the effort of the National Alliance on Mental Issues (NAMI) to raise mental illness awareness. It presents an opportunity to all NAMI state organizations and affiliates across the country to work together in communities to achieve the NAMI mission through outreach, education and advocacy.
Similarly, in Canada MIAW is an annual national public education campaign designed to help open the eyes of Canadians to the reality of mental illness. The week was established in 1992 by the Canadian Psychiatric Association, and is now coordinated by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) in cooperation with all its member organizations and many other supporters across Canada.
How Are People Celebrating Mental Illness Awareness Week?
Well, the party's are everywhere. In Vancouver, Margaret Trudeau is speaking about her struggle with bipolar disorder. A crowd is walking in downtown Guelph and Penticton. In Ottawa there are film screenings, and in Longueuil and Montréal there are art shows centering around mental health issues. Check out other Canada Mental Illness Awareness Week events.
Cities across the US are planning walks, candelight vigils and PBS will be airing the documentary Unlisted: A Story of Schizophrenia, which was screened at the 2010 NAMI national convention. NAMI is also using this week as an opportunity to remind elected officials of mental health issues. (Sorry there isn't a complete list of events anywhere, you'll have to check your area for specifics.)
What You Can Personally Do To Promote Mental Illness Awareness
I understand not everyone wants to walk through the downtown area, attend a screening or write an elected official. That's OK; think globally and act locally. Mental illness awareness happens one person at a time, so consider what you can do to help one person.
- Support someone with a mental illness by bringing them lunch or offering to do laundry when they're feeling too sick to manage it
- Tell a person with a mental illness that you love and support them
- If you're mentally ill, tell the people around you that you appreciate their love and support
- Get educated by reading up on a mental illness
- Tell one person what it's really like to be mentally ill. Take this time to answer this person's questions about mental illness and start an open dialog.
- Spread the word on Twitter or Facebook about sources of reliable information on mental illness
- Write about a mental health issue on your blog
- Leave comments on other blogs promoting mental illness awareness
- Give to a charity that support issues of mental illness
You don't have to be a professional advocate to advocate for the awareness of mental illness. You can help anonymously or not. You can help whether you're ill or not. You can help if you know someone with an illness or not. Just take part, and help us spread the word: We're just like you. Our illnesses are just like yours. Our illnesses matter. We matter.