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Mental Illness Awareness Week: What You Should Know, Including PBS Broadcasts, Oct. 4-10

Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) is Oct. 4-10, 2009 and as part of its observance, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is calling attention to a program now airing on PBS, Minds on the Edge: Facing Mental Illness.

Observed annually the first full week in October, Congress established MIAW as a time to raise public awareness of serious mental illnesses such as major depressionbipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Other diagnoses include post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder and borderline personality disorder.

  • About 60 million Americans experience mental health problems in any given year. One in 17 lives with the most serious conditions. Less than one-third get treatment.
  • One-half of all lifetime cases begin by age 14, but 10 or more years may pass between onset of symptoms and getting help.

“The first step in combating mental illness is education,” said NAMI Executive Director Michael J. Fitzpatrick.

  • Learn about symptoms that are warning signs.
  • Learn about different diagnoses and courses of treatment. 
  • Discuss any concerns with a doctor.  

Early identification is often the key to recovery. Treatment may involve combinations of medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy (“talk therapy”), peer support groups or community services. Diet, exercise, sleep and social support networks also play a role.

“As a society, we also need to strengthen the mental health care system and put an end to the stigma,” Fitzpatrick said.

Many PBS stations nationwide will begin airing Minds on the Edge, produced by Fred Friendly Seminars, Inc., during MIAW. The program explores the medical, legal and personal dimensions of that broader challenge.

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Minds on the Edge is perfect for public education,” said Fitzpatrick. “The program brings together some of the best minds in the nation for a fast-paced, lively discussion. It includes realistic scenarios of what can happen to anyone at any time.”

In the program, 12 experts—including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Nobel Prize-winning neurologist Eric Kandel and law professor Elyn Saks, who lives with schizophrenia and recently was honored with a $500,000 “genius grant” from the McArthur Foundation—are forced to “role play” and confront assumptions in order to define issues and solutions.

Copyright Date: 10/01/2009

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