Thursday, October 1, 2009

Mental Illness Awareness Week

October 4 to October 10

Mental Illness Awareness Week

Why Mental Illness Awareness Week? For too long, Canadians with mental illnesses have been in the shadows. Too few Canadians know about the burden of mental illness on our society, and too few sufferers seek help when they need it. Mental Illness Awareness Week seeks to raise awareness of the level of mental illness in Canada; to reduce negative stigma about mental illness amongst the general population and health care professionals; and to promote the positive effects of best practice in prevention, diagnosis and medical treatment.

If anyone can appreciate the need for buiding awareness about mental illness it would be our family. Oh, wait ... we are not alone - we are joined by the hundreds of thousands of other families, millions even, that live with the effects of mental illness every day. Too many people are silent about their experience, too many people suffer in the shadows. There is hope out there and with the right treatment there is recovery.

Recovery is possible. That's worth repeating. R e c o v e r y i s p o s s i b l e.

In fact, surveys show that between 80 % and 90% of people with a mental illness that seek help recover and go on to lead full and satisfying lives.

But . . . and wait for it because it's a big one . . .

Only one third of those who need mental health services in Canada actually receive them.

Why? you ask. Well, since you did, here goes.

Forty six percent of Canadians think people use the term mental illness as an excuse for bad behaviour; and 27% are fearful of being around people who suffer from serious mental illness.

Only 12% of Canadians said they would hire a lawyer who has a mental illness, and only 49% said they would socialize with a friend who has a serious mental illness.

Just 50% of Canadians would tell friends or co workers that they have a family member with a mental illness compared to 72% who would discuss diagnoses of cancer or 68% diabetes in the family.

And all of the above is negative stereotypes and discrimination and that spells stigma.

Stigma is reported to be the greatest barrier preventing people from seeking treatment for symptoms of mental illness.

It's time to break down the barriers and erase the stigma. It's time to talk about mental illness... out loud.

Awareness works to open minds and open hearts.


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