The MLO Minute: By, Allyson McAndrews, M.Ed.
The first full week of October is Mental Illness Awareness Week! The U.S. Congress established Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) in 1990 because of the tremendous advocacy work by The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. For the past 30 years, the first full week of October observes MIAW by bringing awareness to mental illnesses through educational programs, events, and fundraising with an emphasis on “breaking the stigma” surrounding mental health. With everything going on in the world with Coronavirus COVID-19, there has been heightened anxiety and a greater need for mental health services. MIAW is taking place at a crucial time by offering education and support to those in need.
According to NAMI’s website, 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year, and 1 in 6 U.S. youth (ages 6-17) experience a mental health disorder each year. For example, if there are 24 students in a fifth-grade class, most likely about 4 of them will experience a mental health disorder throughout the school year. This is important for both educators and parents to be aware of so that they can offer support for the student with a disorder. Whether it be providing therapeutic services or making changes to a child’s IEP, there are many options available for students struggling with mental illness. NAMI also states that 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24. These statistics reflect the millions of individuals who are affected by mental illness and why education and services are so critical. Most importantly, it emphasizes the significance of the advocacy work throughout Mental Illness Awareness Week for bringing help and hope to those impacted by a mental health disorder.
There are several disorders that fall under the category of mental health conditions, such as Anxiety Disorders, Bipolar Disorder Borderline Personality Disorder, Depression, Eating Disorders, and Obsessive-compulsive Disorder. Because we all come from different environments with different genetic makeups, a specific mental health condition may affect individuals in different ways. Understanding signs and symptoms is critical when helping yourself and/or others. The term “invisible illnesses” is often used when describing such disorders, and this is why signs and symptoms can be difficult to spot. Mental Illness Awareness Week works to educate the public so that both people suffering and/or those who know someone suffering can get the help they are entitled to.
The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 is “What People with Mental Illness Want You to Know.” This year, the focus is to enlighten others on the various mental health conditions through personal stories, as well as offer aid to those affected. Whether you are someone living with a mental health disorder, or are a loved one of someone suffering, there are many resources available (a few are identified below). If you believe your child is not receiving the proper educational services for their condition, we are here to help. Here at McAndrews, Mehalick, Connolly, Hulse and Ryan P.C., our staff and attorneys posses collectively over a century of special education advocacy experience and we have been serving the needs of individuals with disabilities for over 35 years. Our initial consultation is without charge, and most of our cases are handled without fees paid by parents of children with disabilities. We understand these are trying times. Contact us today by clicking here or call 610-648-9300.
By Allyson McAndrews, M.Ed., Director of Marketing and Outreach for McAndrews, Mehalick, Connolly, Hulse and Ryan P.C. Ms. McAndrews is also a contributing writer and has been featured in various mental health publications, including The Mighty and The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI – Not Alone)
(**NAMI has several local state chapters, too!)
Daemion Counseling Center is a community based mental health center. Since 1970, they have continuously served clients ages 14 and up with affordable mental health counseling in the Southeastern Pennsylvania.