Across the country, NAMI advocates are gearing up for Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) 2010, which takes place October 3-9, to educate the public about serious mental illnesses like major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
MIAW is especially important this year as state budget cuts continue to threaten critical mental health services nationwide.
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Awareness Week resources
Mental illnesses are serious medical illnesses that affect all of our communities. On average, people living with serious mental illness live 25 years less than the rest of the population. One reason is that less than one-third of adults and less than one-half of children with a diagnosed illness receive treatment.
Why do so few people receive treatment?
Former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher has identified stigma as one serious barrier to getting help in his landmark Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General.
MIAW is an opportunity to fight stigma through education, awareness and advocacy. Together, we can change attitudes and save lives by challenging some of the inaccurate stereotypes and myths that are too often associated with mental illness.
NAMI Cambria County in Pennsylvania is one of many NAMI affiliates engaged in a number of great MIAW efforts that include health fairs, National Day of Prayer services, art exhibits and In Our Own Voice presentations that will educate our neighbors, colleagues, political leaders, faith communities and more.
During MIAW, NAMI Cambia County and other affiliates will screen Unlisted: A Story of Schizophrenia, a powerful documentary by Delaney Ruston, M.D. that captures the challenges individuals and families face in getting treatment and support.
Delaney is a physician and filmmaker who chronicles her challenging relationship with her father, Richard, a poet and novelist who lived with schizophrenia. For many years Delaney was estranged from her father, who at times lived on the streets and would show up at her door in psychotic states. Incapable of helping him, she became unlisted in the phone book. Ultimately, her own son’s curiosity about his grandfather inspired her to reconcile with Richard.
The film, which was warmly received at NAMI’s 2010 convention, explores how deeply mental illness can impact families, underscoring the importance of access to treatment and supportive housing.
If you can’t catch a local screening and discussion, PBS television stations in some communities will begin airing the film on Oct. 1 as well.
Our hope is that Unlisted screenings and other MIAW efforts will generate dialogues in every community, but also inspire action to protect mental health services during these difficult economic times.
The more our communities know about mental illness, the better they can help people get the help and support that they need. Contact your local NAMI for information on MIAW activities your community.