Mental Illness Awareness Week occurs during the first week of October and this year, it is observed from October 1 to 7. Millions of people live with a mental illness and it not only affects them but also those around them — family, friends, or coworkers.
Mental Illness Awareness Week is run in collaboration with the National Alliance of Mental Illness (N.A.M.I). NAMI’s goals are to raise awareness of mental illnesses, fight discrimination, and provide support through Mental Illness Awareness Week (M.I.A.W.). This has become a dedicated time for mental health advocates across the country to come together as one unified voice. During this week events are held to promote community outreach and public education concerning mental illnesses. Events include art/music events, educational sessions, advertising campaigns, health fairs, prayer services, movie nights, candlelight vigils, and benefit runs.
M.I.A.W. coincides with similar campaigns in early October such as World Mental Health Day, National Depression Screening Day, and National Day Without Stigma.
History of Mental Illness Awareness Week
National Alliance of Mental Illness (N.A.M.I) started as the Parents of Adult Schizophrenics, a nonprofit association that was made up of family support groups that were seeking answers and treatments for their loved ones affected by mental illness. They then changed their name to Alliance for the Mentally Ill of San Mateo. The creation of this organization spurred a national movement where members pushed for more research, greater support, and broader public awareness. The growth of this movement resulted in the establishment of the National Alliance on Mental Illness: the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization. In 1979 the National Alliance on Mental Illness was incorporated.
The Alliance opened its first offices in Washington in 1980, and in 1982 it was appointed to the National Mental Health Advisory Council. In 1984 “Shattered Dreams” and “Scrapbook” were aired nationally; these were N.A.M.I.’s first public service announcements. In 1990, N.A.M.I established the N.A.M.I HelpLine. In the same year, Congress officially established Mental Illness Awareness Week. In 1999, N.A.M.I participated in the first White House Conference on Mental Health and launched the N.A.M.I Family Support Group.
The StigmaFree campaign was launched in 2015, it was celebrated by the lighting of the Empire State Building green. That year they also partnered with Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc., the nation’s oldest sorority founded by African American college women. Their goal was to expand mental health education, awareness, and support activities on campuses and in local communities. In 2019 “Stop the Stigma: A Conversation About Mental Health,” featuring N.A.M.I experts, was aired on “CBS This Morning.” It was also in 2019 that the N.A.M.I Provider program became part of the curriculum for the Des Moines University School of Osteopathic Medicine third-year medical students.
Mental Illness Awareness Week timeline
The first national office opens in Washington, D.C.
NAMI is appointed to the National Mental Health Advisory Council.
Arlington, Virginia becomes the new home of the N.A.M.I national headquarters.
The American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Distinguished Service Award is awarded to NAMI.
Mental Illness Awareness Week is officially established by Congress.
The HelpLine is set up to make it easier for mental health patients to reach out for help.
Mental Illness Awareness Week FAQs
Why is awareness about mental health important?
Having good mental health awareness is important to improve understanding and increase access to healthcare.
How does mental health affect daily life?
It affects how we think, feel, and act.
What activities help mental health?
Physical exercise is effective in helping a person’s mental health. Aerobic activities have been found to reduce anxiety and depression.
How to Observe Mental Illness Awareness Week
Watch the Mental Illness Awareness Week videos
Watch the videos that feature real people sharing their lived experiences. You can get to learn some of the symptoms and effects of mental illness.
Share on social media
Use your social media handles to pass the message. You can use media graphics and logos that NAMI provides to get the conversation going.
Download additional resources
Download readings and additional resources that will increase your knowledge of mental health. With this information, support a loved one struggling with mental illness.
5 Facts About Mental Illness
Your mental health can change over time
Mental health is dependent on many factors and this means that a person’s mental health can change over time due to circumstances.
Mental health problems are very common
In the U.S., statistics reveal that there are about one in 20 people with a serious mental illness.
There is no single cause
Several factors can contribute to the risk of suffering from a mental illness.
Children can also have mental health issues
About 50% of children show the first signs of mental health disorders before 14 years old, and three-quarters of mental health disorders begin before age 24.
There are hundreds of mental health illnesses
There are more than 200 types of mental illness.
Why Mental Illness Awareness Week is Important
It highlights a taboo topic
There are certain stigma's around mental illnesses. This week breaks down these stereotypes, misinformation, and discrimination.
It highlights real-world experiences
The information shared contains stories and experiences of those living with mental illness every day. Their shared experience makes this illness very relatable.
It saves lives
By reaching out, creating conversation, and allowing discussion about mental health you are showing support and understanding. This is needed by all the people living with this condition.
Mental Illness Awareness Week dates