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Mental Illness Awareness Week 2020

Mental Illness Awareness Week 2020

The first week of October each year is Mental Illness Awareness Week, a time to raise awareness of mental health disorders, remove stigmas surrounding mental illness, share personal experiences, and encourage people suffering from mental health issues to seek help. Many people avoid receiving treatment for mental illness because of stigmas and misunderstanding surrounding these conditions, and Mental Illness Awareness Week was established to change that.

Mental Illness Awareness Week

The effects of mental illness are extremely widespread in the United States:

  • 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience mental illness each year (or 20 percent of adults).
  • 1 in 25 adults in the U.S. experience serious mental illness each year.
  • 45 percent of adults with a mental illness meet the criteria for two or more disorders.
  • 1 in 6 youths in the U.S. (ages 6-17) experience a mental health disorder each year.

Cases of mental illness are prevalent among all demographics in America:

  • 37 percent of LGBTQ adults.
  • 27 percent of mixed/multiracial adults.
  • 22 percent of American Indian or Alaska Native adults.
  • 20 percent of white adults.
  • 17 percent of Latin-American adults.
  • 16 percent of black adults.
  • 15 percent of Asian adults.

Open conversation about mental illness is important because stigmas about mental health can prevent proper reporting or diagnoses from occurring.

Types of Mental Illness

Common Types of Mental Illness

Mental illness can take many forms, but these are some of the most common.

Anxiety Disorders

A series of disorders that causes someone to feel frightened, distressed, and uneasy for no obvious reason. There are many pathways here, including Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Phobias, Panic Disorder, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Prevalence: Over 21 percent of U.S. adults, or 42.5 million people.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: an anxiety disorder involving recurrent unwanted thoughts (obsessions) or compulsions (rituals) that a person feels they cannot control. They may perform repeated rituals for temporary relief from uncomfortable, intrusive thoughts.
Prevalence: 2.2 million adults, or 1 percent of the American population.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: an anxiety disorder following the experience or witnessing of a traumatic event, in which someone experiences prolonged distress, fear, helplessness, guilt, shame or anger (for more than a month).
Prevalence: 12 million Americans, or 3.7 percent of adult Americans.

Bipolar Disorder

A disorder characterized by extreme highs and lows in mood and energy. Extended periods of excessively high or irritable moods shift to extended periods of sadness or hopelessness, possibly with normal moods in between.
Prevalence: Over 3.3 million Americans (1.7 percent of adults) each year, with 4.4 percent of adults experiencing this during their lifetime.

Depressed Man Receiving Help Mental Health

Borderline Personality Disorder

An emotional regulation disorder in which at least five of the following nine criteria must be satisfied:

  • Chronic feelings of emptiness.
  • Dissociation and feelings of detachment.
  • Fear of abandonment, perceived or real.
  • Impulsivity.
  • Inappropriate, intense anger or rage.
  • Intense mood swings: brief periods of severe depression or anxiety.
  • Self-injury or suicidal behaviors.
  • Unstable, intense relationships.
  • Unstable sense of self.

Once thought to be untreatable, BPD can be managed with psychotherapy in the form of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) as well as mood stabilizers.. It is often diagnosed in adolescents or young adults, and has a high comorbidity with other personality disorders. It affects up to 5 percent of Americans.

Mental Health Woman in Psychotherapy

Depressive Disorders

One of the most common mental illnesses, depressive disorders involve extended periods of feeling low and a lack of enjoyment or interest towards pleasurable activities. It can include:

  • Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): severe depressive symptoms for at least 2 weeks.
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD): symptoms of depression present for at least 2 years, but less severe than MDD.
  • Post-Partum Depression: depression that occurs after childbirth.
  • Premenstrual Dsyphoric Disorder: symptoms of depression, tension, and irritability that occur in the week prior to menstruation.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder: symptoms of depression that vary with changing sunlight levels, typically during the fall and winter months.

16 million American adults, or 6.7 percent, experience depression each year, but only about a third (35.3 percent) of those with severe depression seek treatment. Many people resist treatment because they don't think their depression is serious enough and believe it can be treated on its own or that it's some form of personal failing rather than a medical condition.

Mental Health Therapy


A serious disorder affecting a person's ability to think, feel, and behave clearly. This can cause a variety of behaviors or feelings, such as difficulty distinguishing reality from fantasy; unresponsiveness or withdrawn behaviors; or difficulty expressing normal emotions in social situations. This is not a split personality or multiple personality disorder, as it is popularly characterized; people with schizophrenia are typically not dangerous. They may seem out of touch with reality, exhibit disordered thinking or difficulty with information, or may experience hallucinations or delusions.
Prevalence: An estimated range of 0.25 to 0.64 percent of American adults. It's one of the top 15 causes of disability worldwide, and people with schizophrenia have a 4.9 percent suicide rate, much higher than the average.

You Are Not Alone

This is by no means an exhaustive list of all mental health and emotional disorders, but an overview of common ones. Many people have multiple disorders concurrently, as well. If you suspect that you have a mental health issue, contact the NAMI Helpline run by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, free, nationwide peer-support service providing information, resource referrals and support to people living with a mental health conditions, their family members and caregivers, mental health providers and the public. 

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