The National Association for Mental Health began the nationwide observance in 1949 to bring awareness to mental health issues and dispel some of the myths around the condition. That goal to dispel the myths and educate the public about mental illness is still the same today.
According to recent data compiled by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration every year about 42.5 million American adults suffer from some forms of mental illness, including depression and bipolar disorder.
Treatment for mental illness conditions are readily available said Kristina Hannon, vice president of behavioral health care for the Family Guidance Center. Mental illness is treatable, she said.
“One of the myths we try to break down during this month is that if you have a mental illness that it’s an automatically disabling condition. Just because you have a mental illness or somebody in your family has a mental illness does not mean you’re on a path to disability. There’s treatment available for all forms of mental health conditions,” Hannon said.
Dr. Katherine C. Nordal, a psychologist and executive director for professional practice for the American Psychological Association, said in an APA interview that awareness of mental health issues has definitely improved in recent decades.
“When I entered practice more than 30 years ago, individuals in my semi-rural community would often travel 40 to 50 miles to get treatment because they did not want anyone to know they were seeing a therapist,” Nordal said. “We have taken great strides since then as more people talk about mental health publicly and as we see more positive depictions of mental health in popular culture.”
Yet stigma and myth around mental illness still exist.
“Events like Mental Health Month serve to raise awareness and decrease stigma. Mental health disorders impact everyone, by talking about mental health we can dispel stereotypes and raise awareness,” Nordal said.
One myth that still strongly exists in the wake of mass shootings and other public violent acts is that mentally ill people are violent.
Hannon said that is a gross misperception.
“Many people think that individuals with a mental illness are violent because whenever there is an incident of mass violence you see in the news often times people blame mental illness for that and we like to promote that individuals who have a mental illness and who are treated for mental illness are no more likely to harm you than anyone else,” Hannon said.
This year the National Alliance on Mental Illness is promoting a CureStigma campaign to also bring more awareness to the condition.
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