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Mental Illness Awareness Week: Removing The Stigma

Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), or Mental Health Awareness Week, occurs during the first week of October to raise awareness of mental health issues. People share stories of adversity and resilience throughout the week, shifting society's perception of mental illness. 

Despite the challenges of mental illness, MIAW reminds us that solidarity is crucial for those dealing with mental health issues. This week also advocates for improving mental health services and policies, raises awareness about the need for an improved mental health care system, and encourages leaders to address this issue. 

It also emphasizes replacing isolation with integration and ignorance with knowledge. MIAW is a call to action to remove all stigmas about mental health and discuss it openly and without shame. Read on to learn more.

Featured in: October - Awareness Months, Days & Observances

History and Background of Mental Illness Awareness Week

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The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a non-profit organization committed to fighting the societal stigma surrounding mental illness. 

They successfully advocated for creating Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), which the U.S. Congress passed and President George H. W. Bush signed into law in 1990. Congress recognized adequate mental health care as a bipartisan objective.

Since then, MIAW has achieved significant victories. In 1999, Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher released the first-ever Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health, which shaped public understanding of mental health for the better.

In 2008, NAMI also launched the StigmaFree campaign, urging people to recognize the person behind the illness, sparking a global conversation on mental health. 

Today, MIAW includes events like National Depression Screening Day, where everyone can see a mental health professional about their problems.

Thanks to NAMI founders Harriet Shetler and Beverly Young, they shaped MIAW into what it is today, with support from public figures.

Related Read: World Mental Health Day.

The Cause and Its Challenges

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Mental illnesses majorly impact how someone thinks, feels, or behaves. These conditions are divided into Serious Mental Illness and Any Mental Illness.

Serious Mental Illness (SMI) includes conditions that drastically affect a person's ability to perform daily tasks. They include conditions like posttraumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and borderline personality disorder, which tend to have severe symptoms impairing one's functionality.

In contrast, Any Mental Illness (AMI) stands for all recognized mental health conditions, regardless of the severity. AMI can include conditions like mild anxiety and depression, where the symptoms might be less severe but still impact one's well-being and quality of life.

Sadly, there's still a stigma attached to mental health2. Mostly, it's because of stereotypes and misinformation, which cause a lot of judgment and misunderstanding. This stigma turns into a huge obstacle when people affected need to seek help1.

Aside from stigma, getting the proper diagnosis can take a lot of time because the signs of these illnesses often overlap. Plus, therapy, medication, and other treatments can burn a hole in your pocket, which could stop people from reaching out for help.

We need to amp up educating people about mental health and ensure everyone can afford quality mental health services. It's about time we all get the help and understanding we need.

What Causes Mental Illnesses?

Biological, psychological, and environmental factors can trigger mental illnesses. You might have a higher risk if someone in your family has a mental illness. Significant life changes, ongoing stress, or past trauma can kick-start or worsen mental health issues.

Treatment for mental health disorders isn't a one-track process. It could span psychotherapy (talking to a professional), medication, or self-care routines. Often, a cocktail of these methods works best to manage a condition.

You'd typically discuss your feelings and experiences with a trained professional in therapy. This can help you understand and cope better. Medication can be an excellent supplement to control symptoms and don't knock the basics: good sleep, diet, exercise, and mindfulness can go a long way in maintaining mental health.

5 Facts On Why Mental Illness Awareness Week Matters

  1. Roughly one out of every eight people battle some form of mental health disorder, says the World Health Organization's 2022 report.
  2. U.S. data from 2021 shows about 57.8 million, or almost one in four adults, experience mental illness (AMI). Of these numbers, 5.5% or approximately 14.1 million adults grappled with severe mental illness (SMI).
  3. Even with these high figures in 2021, less than half of adults with AMI and just two-thirds with SMI looked for mental health services.
  4. Surprisingly, only 3-5% of violent actions link back to those with SMI, and these folks are more than ten times as likely to be on the receiving end of violence.
  5. Depression and anxiety alone put a dent in about $1 trillion in the global economy yearly because of lost productivity.

Related Read: Mental Health Facts & Statistics.

Efforts and Initiatives

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The World Health Organization (WHO) addresses the mental health issue by implementing the Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020. The plan promotes mental health, preventing disorders and improving the quality of life for those affected by a mental health condition. 

Similarly, individual nations are taking steps to address mental health concerns. For example, Canada's Bell Let's Talk Day has raised millions for mental health and initiated valuable conversations.

The Time to Change campaign in the UK, supported by the Department of Health, Comic Relief, and the Big Lottery Fund, has helped reduce stigma and discrimination against mental health. 

Meanwhile, the Australian government's headspace initiative targets 12 to 25-year-olds with the goal of early intervention. 

In South Africa, the Depression and Anxiety Group has implemented a school-based education program to raise mental health awareness among the younger generation. 

Thanks to these efforts, the world is no longer avoiding discussions about mental health, and people are willing to combat mental health stigmas.

How to Get Involved and Support Mental Illness Awareness Week

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Support this event by sharing informative posts, personal experiences, and valuable mental health resources on social media. Use official event hashtags to reach a wider audience. We also have a collection of mental health quotes you can post with your story.

Encourage open and constructive conversations and correct misconceptions with friends and family members. Read our article on how to start a conversation about mental health and mental health language guide for more info.

Look for events such as seminars, workshops, or charity runs. You can even train to be a mental health first aid. Attending such events allows you to stand with individuals with mental illness.

Finally, you can create a donation page or organize a charity event to help mental health organizations support the people who need it. You can even host a bake sale or a virtual concert and donate the proceeds to advocacy groups or organizations. 


MIAW emphasizes the importance of mental health and treatment as a fundamental right for all individuals. The week demystifies the realities of mental health disorders, which are often misunderstood and feared.

Individuals can also make a difference in addressing and treating mental health concerns. We must believe that personal input, regardless of scale, can create ripples of change. 

Together, let us create a supportive environment and show people struggling with mental health issues that they are not alone.

Mental Illness Awareness Week FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is Mental Illness Awareness Week?

It is an annual campaign to raise awareness and reduce the stigma around mental health conditions.

2. When does it happen?

The event occurs in the first week of October.

3. Why is it important to raise awareness about mental illness?

Awareness about mental illness helps combat stigma, encourage open conversations, and promote access to mental health resources and support.

4. How can I support the cause?

Join local events, share educational resources on social media, or organize your awareness activities.

5. What can I do to support individuals with mental illness?

Listen to them without judgment, offer empathy and understanding, and encourage them to seek professional help.


Corrigan, P. W., Druss, B. G., & Perlick, D. A. (2014). The impact of mental illness stigma on seeking and participating in mental health care. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 15(2), 37–70. 


Corrigan, P. W., Morris, S. B., Michaels, P. J., Rafacz, J. D., & Rüsch, N. (2012b). Challenging the Public Stigma of Mental Illness: A Meta-Analysis of Outcome Studies. Psychiatric Services, 63(10), 963–973. 

Mike is a degree-qualified researcher and writer passionate about increasing global awareness about climate change and encouraging people to act collectively in resolving these issues.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

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