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Wed, Dec. 11

Mental illness awareness week begins October 3

In 1990, the U.S. Congress established the first week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week. Since this proclamation, mental health advocates across the country have joined together during the first full week of October to celebrate and to take the opportunity to educate about serious mental illnesses such as major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Mental illnesses are medical illnesses. One in four adults experiences a mental health problem in any given year. One in 17 lives with serious, chronic disorders.

It may be surprising to you that, 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.

According to reports from the U.S. surgeon general, stigma is a major barrier to people seeking help when they need it. So, that is one reason why Mental Illness Awareness Week is so important. The hope is that people will understand mental illness better and join a dialogue in our community. The more people know, the better they can help themselves or help their loved ones get the help and support they need.

When mental health care is cut, which has been the case in Arizona during 2009 and 2010, greater costs often result from: lost jobs and careers, broken families, more homelessness, higher insurance costs, more welfare and much more expensive costs for hospital emergency rooms, nursing homes, schools, police and courts, jails and prisons. Mental illnesses are chemical imbalances in the brain, and the week of Oct. 3 is intended to highlight that they should be treated with all of the focus and resources of any medical illness.

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