US Mental Illness Awareness Week (2019)

Mental Health

Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) was established in 1990 by the United States (US) Congress in recognition of efforts by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to educate and increase awareness about mental illness.

Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, The UK version of Mental Health Awareness Week usually takes place in May each, from 18-24 May in 2020.

The US version takes place every year during the first full week of October. During this week, mental health advocates and organisations across the US join to sponsor events to promote community outreach and public education concerning mental illnesses such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

Examples of activities held during the week include art/music events, educational sessions provided by healthcare professionals and individuals with lived experience and/or familial lived experience, advertising campaigns, health fairs, prayer services, movie nights, candlelight vigils, and benefit runs.

An estimated 26.2% of Americans ages 18 and older, about one in four adults, are believed to be diagnosable with a mental illness in any given year. The numbers may be larger because stigma reduces reporting. Not only are these adults affected by one mental illness; 45% of these adults meet criteria for two or more disorders. These range from fairly common mood disorders to the much more serious anxiety and schizophrenia disorders. Among these, anxiety disorders were the most common, as some 40 million American adults ages 18 and older experience some form of anxiety disorder.

Despite the large number of Americans affected by such disorders, stigma surrounding mental illness is a major barrier that prevents people from seeking the mental health treatment that they need.

Programmes during Mental Illness Awareness Week are designed to create community awareness and discussion in an effort to put an end to stigma and advocate for treatment and recovery.

Mental Illness Awareness Week coincides with similar organisational campaigns in early October such as:

  • World Mental Health Day (World Federation for Mental Health);
  • National Depression Screening Day (Screening for Mental Health); and
  • National Day Without Stigma (Active Minds).

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