Mental Illness Awareness Week Kicks Off With Nationwide Events

By Victoria Kim 10/04/17

About 43 million American adults are affected by mental health issues.

women wearing green ribbon for mental illness awareness

This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct. 1-7)—a week of events and conversations across the country highlighting the current state of mental health and the need for greater support, services, and acceptance. 

Why is mental health awareness important? According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 17.9% of all U.S. adults (43.4 million) qualified as having mental health issues in 2015. About 20-21% of incarcerated Americans have a “recent history” of mental health issues, and 70% of young people caught up in the juvenile justice system have at least one mental health issue.

Among people living in homeless shelters, 46% live with severe mental health issues and/or substance use disorders (SUDs).

According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, among the 20.2 million American adults who have a substance use disorder, just over half (50.5% or 10.2 million people) had co-occurring mental health issues.

While prevalence is high, the demand for mental health treatment is not being met in the U.S. According to the drug use survey, less than half of adults who had a mental health issue (41%) accessed treatment in the past year.

A lack of support, in addition to “mental illness” being a taboo subject, has serious consequences. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., while mood disorders (like major depression and bipolar disorder) account for the third leading cause of hospitalizations. 

For actor Chris Wood, who plays Mon-El on CW’s Supergirl, mental illness had a profound impact on his life as he watched his father struggle with suppressing his “undiagnosed mood disorder” that took a physical toll and ultimately led to his death. “It tore my family apart. No one knew how to deal with it, how to get him help,” he says on his website. 

The actor launched to encourage dialogue and lessen the stigma of mental health struggles. “It’s about allowing people to say ‘I don’t mind’ and stand up against the fear and shame, to be willing to admit when we’re having a problem and not caring what the world’s perception of us is.”

It’s been six years since Wood’s father passed away. The actor observed that the subject of mental health is still somewhat taboo in “the middle of America” than it is in cities like New York and Los Angeles.

“He felt like he couldn’t speak up about having problems throughout his whole life,” Wood said of his father. “I saw my dad as being a superhero. But now I am finding the truth that it’s okay to admit when we’re having problems and when we’re not feeling right."

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr