Associations Put Spotlight on Mental Health

October marks several national and international mental health awareness campaigns. Here’s a look at how many associations are working this month and year-round to advocate for better understanding and treatment of mental illness.

Mental illness has garnered a lot of attention in recent months, particularly as violent incidents  like the recent Capitol Hill car chase and the shooting at Washington, DC’s Navy Yard have drawn headlines.

“The Navy Shipyard tragedy shares common factors with others, such as Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora and Newtown,” the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) said in a statement after the incident. “The common denominator is an individual struggling with mental illness with other people being aware of problems, but no meaningful action being taken in time to connect the person with effective services or support.”

NAMI, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about mental illness, added that people in the United States undergoing a psychiatric crisis are often treated differently than those with other medical conditions. “People do not know where to turn for help,” the organization said. “Treatment is unavailable or not provided until an emergency occurs.”

To help educate the public and eliminate the stigma around mental illness, many organizations, including NAMI, are working to raise awareness of mental health information and resources this month, which marks National Depression Awareness Month, World Mental Health Day (October 10), National Depression Screening Day (October 10), and Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 6-12).

A few examples:

The Mental Health Association in Delaware is helping coordinate screenings for depression throughout the state on National Depression Screening Day on Thursday. An affiliate of Mental Health America, formerly the National Mental Health Association, MHA in Delaware estimates that 61,000 people in the state suffer from a mood disorder such as major depression or bipolar disorder. The depression screenings will take place at various locations including churches, senior centers, and the University of Delaware.

The American Counseling Association, American Mental Health Counselors Association, National League of Cities, and the YWCA are just a few of the organizations partnering with civic groups, cities, and other nonprofit organizations as part of a public-private initiative to foster a national dialogue on mental health. Stemming from a directive from President Obama to create greater understanding about mental health, the Creating Community Solutions White House Initiative helps organize meetings and conversations about mental health issues throughout the country.

Late last month, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association published a set of guidelines to help athletic trainers and physicians recognize symptoms and assist college athletes with mental health concerns. The guidelines—developed by a task force representing associations in the medical, mental health, higher education, sports, and insurance fields—provide scenarios and examples of student behavior to look out for and helps establish a protocol for referring students to mental health experts.

(Monkey Business/Thinkstock)

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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