Mental Illness Awareness Week
Mental illness affects everyone, either indirectly or directly, through friends, family members and even co-workers. That is why in 1990, Congress officially established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW). Since then, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has worked hard to grow their movement that is dedicated to educating the public, fighting stigma and providing support.
Raising awareness and providing support for mental health conditions has been an important cause over the past thirty years, but this year in 2020, it is crucial. As cited by Northeastern University, Suzanne Garverich, a program assistant director at the Institute for Health Equity and Social Justice Research, and her colleagues conducted a survey to measure the impact of COVID-19 on mental health. 72% of respondents reported worry and stress have had a negative impact on their mental health. Numerous other factors were found to be contributing to poor mental health including isolation, loneliness, and restrictions that make it difficult to exercise and eat healthy.
The 2020 Campaign
NAMI believes that mental health conditions are important to discuss year-round, especially this year. Their year-long awareness campaign, You Are Not Alone, has been featuring the stories of people affected by mental illness to fight stigma, inspire others and educate the broader public. Their goal is to show that no one is ever really alone and make sure that no one goes without information, support, connection or help.
The theme for MIAW is “What People with Mental Illness Want You to Know.” Throughout the week, NAMI will be further highlighting mental illnesses and raising the voices of those with lived experience to talk about some of the conditions and symptoms that are most misunderstood. Important dates during this week include:
- Tuesday Oct. 6: National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding
- Thursday Oct. 8: National Depression Screening Day
- Saturday Oct. 10: World Mental Health Day
- Saturday Oct. 10: NAMIWalks National Day of Hope
As an employer, you play an important role in your employees’ mental health. While mental health conditions and treatment should be discussed year-round, October 4-10 is a perfect time for your organization to highlight mental health and work to reduce stigma. One of the most important things your organization can do is simply talk about mental health facts and statistics so employees know they are not alone. Right now, this can be done for remote workforces through infographics, virtual lunch-and-learns, and digital resources.
As stated by Harvard Business Review, “we need to have the option to ask for help, and feel safe doing so … we need more flexibility, sensitivity, and open-mindedness from employers.” Listed below are meaningful ways you can not only get involved with Mental Illness Awareness Week, but also create the flexible, supportive, and open-minded culture that employees need.
- Encourage annual mental health checkups.
- Include free virtual counseling sessions for employees and family members in your wellness program.
- Offer an online course on mental health first aid either during Mental Illness Awareness Week or year-round.
- Include access to checkups and screening as part of preventive care in your benefits plan.
- Offer online resources and tools which employees can access 24/7.
For more information and tips, visit The Benefits Guide!