It’s Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct. 4-10, 2020)

Mental Illness Awareness Week 2020 graphic

These five organizations work for better mental health awareness and services for all Californians, every week of the year

In 1990, Congress declared the first week of October to be Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), and in 1992 the World Federation for Mental Health made October 10th World Mental Health Day. It’s a time to highlight mental health conditions, fight the social stigma around mental illness, educate our communities about mental health and advocate for better services.

The MIAW theme for 2020 is “what people with mental illness want you to know.” The theme encourages us to listen to people with lived experience of mental illness. With approximately one in five adults in the United States living with a mental illness, you almost certainly know somebody, and probably love somebody, who is affected by a mental health issue. Mental health problems can affect anyone, at any time. They are inextricable from other societal struggles including addiction, poverty, homelessness and discrimination.

This year’s pandemic is affecting the mental health of individuals and communities across the globe. Isolation, upheaval, stress and financial hardship are all detrimental to mental health. It’s more important than ever to understand the warning signs and symptoms of mental illness, and to know what to do to help yourself or a loved one. Know that increased telehealth resources are available to those who prefer not to seek help in person.

According to NAMI:

  •  More than 5 million adults in California have a mental health condition
  • Only about four in 10 people with a mental health condition in California received any treatment within the past year
  • One in eight ER visits involves a mental health or substance use condition

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a hotline for individuals in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. To speak with a certified listener, call 1-800-273-8255.

Crisis Text Line is a texting service for emotional crisis support. To speak with a trained listener, text HELLO to 741741. It is free, available 24/7, and confidential.

In recognition of Mental Illness Awareness Week, we would like to introduce you two five organizations working in California to improve mental health care services, advocate for policy change and educate us about mental health issues. You can reach out to these groups for help, resources, referrals and ways to get involved.

NAMI California

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization. Its California chapter was founded by three parent groups in Oakland in 1977. Today NAMI California is based in Sacramento and has 56 local affiliates.

NAMI is an organization of families and individuals affected by serious mental illness. Its mission is to advocate for improved quality of life, end stigma and encourage respect for those affected by serious mental illness. The organization is a leader in advocacy, policy development and education.

NAMIWalks is the group’s best-known series of events. The 5K walks, which include virtual events, are held nationwide to raise funds and awareness.

Visit NAMI California for more information.

ACT for Mental Health

San Jose-based ACT for Mental Health was founded in 1956. The organization offers no-cost and low-cost social services for underserved communities. These include mental health and behavioral health services, drug rehabilitation, wellness and support groups, educational programs and a homelessness program. The nonprofit runs a counseling center in downtown San Jose. It also hosts classes, support groups and a therapeutic social club.

Visit ACT Mental Health for more.

Mental Health America (MHA) of California

Mental Health America (MHA) is a nationwide nonprofit founded in 1909. Its mission is to ensure anyone who needs mental health services and support is able to receive it and to live a full and productive life. MHA focuses on early identification of symptoms, early intervention, and providing help ideally before an individual is suffering.

MHA of California offers an online mental health screening tool and various resources to connect you with appropriate help for yourself or a loved one.

Major programs include the California Youth Empowerment Network, which empowers youth ages 15 to 26 to be leaders in the transformation of the mental health system; and Wellness Works, a workplace education and training program.

Visit the MHA of California website for details.

The Trevor Project

The Trevor Project, based in West Hollywood, provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ people under age 25. The organization offers life-saving, life-affirming programs and services. Among them are The Lifeguard Workshop, a free online learning module for middle and high school classrooms, and a training program for professionals who work with youth.

The Trevor Project is also deeply involved in research into the growing field of suicidology. The nonprofit was founded in 1998 by the creators of the Academy Award-winning short film “TREVOR.”

Visit The Trevor Project for more info.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

The American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP) was established in 1987 as the first national nonprofit dedicated to preventing and understanding suicide. Its mission is to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide. AFSP does so through funding research, promoting advocacy and offering education about suicide, a leading cause of death nationwide. It has a public policy and lobbying arm in D.C. and local offices in all 50 states.

AFSP has local chapters all over California, including San Francisco, Greater Los Angeles and Central Coast, Central Valley and Orange County groups. Their fundraising series include community walks, campus walks and overnight walks that bring together friends, family and supporters.

Fitting with the MIAW theme for 2020, AFSP presents real stories contributed from people in your local community who have been affected by suicide.

For more information visit American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Want to read more on this subject? Click here for a first-hand account of a Los Angeles doctor’s experience of patients with untreated mental illness.

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