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National Alliance on Mental Illness
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May Is Mental Health Month

By Brendan McLean, Communications Coordinator

Mental illness can strike anyone at any time. One in four American families is affected by mental illness every year, and one in eight children will experience a mental health condition every year. Serious mental illness, left untreated, can shatter lives and rock communities. It is important that we continue efforts that keep mental health issues at the forefront of the media and on the minds of policy-makers; this will ensure that all people living with mental illness get the tools and supports needed to achieve recovery.

This May marks the 61st year of Mental Health Month, a time when we, as a nation, raise awareness around mental illness, educate our communities and help fight stigma. Across the United States, events are getting underway to help raise awareness about mental health. Every effort-no matter how small-helps shed light on the fact that more than 54 million adult Americans live with a diagnosable mental health condition.

In recent weeks, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Charlie Sheen revealed their bipolar disorder diagnoses with the world, and actress Demi Lovato disclosed that she lives with depression. When public figures share their own experiences with mental illness, it helps break down the stereotypes associated with mental illness. For more on celebrities and mental illness, read a recent NAMI blog entry on Zeta-Jones. As more people accept that mental illness is an illness like any other, we make great strides as a nation.

Corporate Responsibility and the Power of One

At times relying on their own experiences, or one of a family member, individuals across the country are helping show that mental illness has an effect on many people. In some instances, those individuals are taking their ideas to their place of work to help spread awareness of mental illness. Workplaces are an important tool in sharing information about mental illness as they provide education around other health topics.

In 2004, Shannon Jacuzzi lost her sister to suicide, and then, a couple of years after, Shannon was diagnosed with mental illness herself. As a kitchen designer at Home Depot, Shannon reached out to her own company to help raise awareness around mental illness. Seeing "wellness boards" that highlighted other health issues, Jacuzzi felt the board should include mental health as well. "Mental health is where it begins. Not everyone may be diagnosed with a mental illness, but everyone needs good mental health," she said.

Jacuzzi was instrumental in persuading Home Depot that resources addressing mental illness were just as vital as resources on heart disease and cancer. Home Depot's CARE/Solutions for Life program, which helps promote healthy living, offers information to all Home Depot employees on a variety of personal issues, including money and relationships, as well as emotional wellness, anxiety and depression. CARE/Solutions for Life is offered to all of Home Depot's 300,000 associates free of charge. During the month of May, "wellness champions" will be in Home Depot stores nationwide distributing information on the importance of having good mental health.

Irvin Kooris, Home Depot's Director of Associate Services said the information offered is extremely important. "It's important to let our people know that getting help is okay," Kooris said. "Removing the stigma from mental illness is important."

One of Jacuzzi's goals is to adopt lime green as the color for mental health, and she has successfully been able to have companies in or around her hometown light up their buildings with lime green lights at night. Jacuzzi hopes that Home Depot's efforts are picked up by others companies across the U.S. "Hopefully other companies will follow their lead and raise awareness for mental health."

Children and Teens Matter, Too

Adults are not the only ones diagnosed with mental illness. May 3 is National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day. Sponsored by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), the "Caring for Every Child's Mental Health" public awareness effort was created in 1994 with the mission to increase awareness around children's mental health. Approximately one in eight children has a diagnosable mental illness. Centered around an event held in Washington, D.C. at the Shakespeare Theatre that will be broadcast live on the Internet, SAMSHA is also encouraging communities and states to hold their own events. Many that have been created so far are focusing on engaging children in artistic activities.

Providing support is one of the most important things you can do for an individual living with mental illness. Letting them know they are not alone has proven key in producing positive outcomes. NAMI launched StrengthofUs in 2010 and aims to do just that for teens and young adults. Since launching just over a year ago, StrengthofUs.org has connected and empowered more than 2,000 active users. Recently, StrengthofUs.org was invited to be a campaign partner for the Love is Louder movement, which was started by The Jed Foundation, MTV and Brittany Snow.

How to Get Involved

"Neighborhood" Blog Party

On May 18, bloggers will come together for a Mental Health Month Blog Party organized by the American Psychological Association (APA). At the Blog Party, attendees can publish a post on why mental health is important. The APA will update their own blog with the stories and videos posted by bloggers across the country in an effort to make a complete list of all things mental health. Follow @apahelpcenter on Twitter for updates about the blog party and mind/body health. Using the hashtag #mhblogday will help them find your blog or tweet more easily.

NAMIWalks

Every year, NAMI does its own part in raising awareness about mental illness. One of the biggest efforts is NAMIWalks. To help usher in the Mental Health Month, there are eight NAMIWalks going to be hosted across the county on April 30, with a combined goal of raising nearly a million dollars. In the months of May and June, 34 more walks will be held to help continue to spread mental health awareness. To find the NAMIWalk nearest to you, visit www.nami.org/walks.

Stay Connected and Share Your Ideas

NAMI offers many options for staying connected and we also love to hear from our social network peers. By following NAMI on Facebook and NAMI on Twitter, you can learn about events in your area, news on mental health issues from around the country and connect with others who also love NAMI. You can also post or tweet any great ideas or activities you know about when it comes to celebrating mental health in May.

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