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Health Team

Mental Illness Awareness Week: Here's what you need to know

Posted October 9, 2020 6:22 a.m. EDT

— Held during the first week of October, Mental Illness Awareness Week is a way for advocates to educate the public on mental health conditions and reduce the social stigma around receiving mental health care. Established by Congress in 1990, it coincides with World Mental Health Day on October 10.

Here's what else you need to know about the impact of mental illness:

The prevalence of mental health conditions

About one in five adults in the United States experience mental illness in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Problems range from depression and anxiety to substance abuse.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 51.5 million American adults experienced mental illness within the past year, an increase from 17.7% in 2008 to 20.6% in 2019. Among these adults who have a mental illness, only 43.3% sought treatment.

Research indicates that sexual minorities are at the greatest risk for mental health issues, with 37.4% of lesbian, gay or bisexual adults experiencing a mental health disorder every year.

Black and Hispanic or Latino communities are also vulnerable. Around 33% of Hispanic or Latino adults with mental health conditions receive treatment in the US each year compared to the average of 43%, and only one in three Black adults who need treatment receive it.

Commonness of mental illness among children and teens

Half of children with a mental health condition -- such as depression, anxiety or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder -- go without treatment, according to a 2019 study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. Of the 46.6 million children ages 6 through 18 whose parents completed the National Survey of Children's Health in 2016, only half received treatment or counseling from a mental health provider in the 12 months prior to the survey.

Receiving treatment can be challenging for families, as data from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry shows. The majority of the country faces a severe shortage of practicing child and adolescent psychiatrists, with fewer than 17 providers available per 100,000 children.

Covid-19's impact on mental health

Data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the coronavirus pandemic has brought with it a mental health crisis, and a new report found Americans are experiencing more mental health consequences related to Covid-19 than people in other countries.

The CDC survey data found that almost 41% of respondents are struggling with mental health issues stemming from the pandemic -- both related to the coronavirus pandemic itself and the measures put in place to contain it, including physical distancing and stay-at-home orders.

Nearly 41% of respondents reported at least one mental or behavioral health condition, including symptoms of depression, substance use or suicidal thoughts.

The number of Americans reporting anxiety symptoms is three times the number at this same time last year, the CDC said, and numerous studies have shown that the pandemic has hit people of color, particularly Black people, the hardest.

The pandemic has also taken its toll on caregivers, according to a national analysis of at least 6.7 million caregivers insured by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. The report found 26% of unpaid caregivers trying to balance work and family due to Covid-19 are feeling more stress and have poorer physical health than before the pandemic.

How to get involved or get help

Read NAMI's information and resources relating to Mental Illness Awareness Week.

People seeking treatment can find providers in their area by reaching out to the agencies below:

National Helpline 1-800-662-HELP (4357) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services AdministrationNational Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

Here are pro-active ways to stay mentally healthy:

Try to get proper sleepWatch what you eat: Too much sugar and caffeine can affect your moodGet outside every day among plants, animals and other peopleGet moving, whether that's taking a walk, doing yoga or dancing with friendsLimit your screen time. Increasingly, therapists are finding a connection between too much technology and depression and anxiety.

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