October 2-8, 2011 is Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW). This week is dedicated to bringing awareness to mental illness and reducing the misconceptions, stigma and discrimination surrounding mental Illness. In honor of MIAW, the Sacramento County Division of Behavioral Health Services (DBHS) is promoting its available mental health programs to enhance awareness of local resources and issues around mental illness.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 1 in 4 adults or 57.7 million Americans will experience a mental health disorder in any given year. In addition, approximately 1 in 5 children will experience a diagnosable mental disorder during their lifetime. In Sacramento, roughly 300,000 residents have a mental health issue but research shows that only one-third of those individuals will seek professional help for their illness. The primary reason for this disproportion is due to the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness.
Sacramento County is doing a great deal of work in the community to bring awareness to mental illness and reduce the stigma, shame, and discrimination associated with mental illness and to educate the community of available resources for those who personally have a mental illness or have loved one’s affected by mental illness and mental health issues. In addition, Sacramento County is focusing on educating and bringing awareness of mental illness to underrepresented communities such as the African American, Latino, and Hmong cultures.
Thru the Mental Health Services Act, Sacramento County has developed many programs to help fight the obstacles that prevent many individuals from seeking help. According to a MIAW Sacramento news release the following programs are available:
- Supporting Community Connections (SCC): SCC is part of the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) Suicide Prevention Project and funds six agencies to provide community outreach, education on suicide prevention and awareness.
- Law Enforcement Training: Formally known as “Mental Health Training for Crisis Responders,” currently provides a two-hour course to the Sacramento Police Department that consists of an overview of mental health/illness and current resources available to law enforcement.
- Mental Health First Aid: This 12-hour course, available to interested community members, seeks to inform individuals to help and connect persons with mental illness to services and support. The program seeks to reduce stigma and discrimination, reduce the negative effects of living with mental illness and most importantly, helps to transform communities to be accepting and understanding of mental illness.
In November 2011, Sacramento County will be launching its Mental Health Stigma and Discrimination Reduction Multi-Media Campaign, which will focus on:
- Dispelling myths and stereotypes
- Promoting positive beliefs and attitudes about living with mental illness
- Promoting messages of wellness, hope and recovery
- Highlighting available community programs and services.
In addition to the above referenced programs, Access Sacramento airs a bi-monthly program called “Mental Health Matters”, which brings awareness, education, and coverage of mental health issues in Sacramento. The program can be seen on Comcast Channel 17 every first and third Sunday of each month from 11:00 AM to 12:00 pm.
Mental illnesses are real and are not a sign of mental weakness, intelligence or defect. They are real serious medical conditions and should be treated as such. Unfortunately because of the stigma and misconceptions surrounding mental illness many people do not seek the help they need to live successful and productive lives. If you or a loved one is suffering from a mental illness or other mental health problems please seek help! Early detection and treatment is vital for improved quality of life, recovery and success. It takes us all to help dispel the stigma and discrimination that has been associated with mental illness for much too long. Let us all stand up and help stop this cycle.
For more information on mental illness and mental health related issues please visit www.nami.org.
As always, be blessed, be well…
I would like to extend a special thank you to Laura McCasland, Michelle Callejas, MFT and Frances Freitas, MSW for your time and the invaluable information with which you provided me for the purposes of this article and your dedication to bringing awareness to mental illness in Sacramento …..