Recognizing Mental Illness Awareness Week 2012

For over 20 years, NAMI has deemed a week in October as Mental Illness Awareness Week. This year, it began October 7 and ends this weekend.

I feel somewhat foolish highlighting this to the specialists who are at the forefront of dealing with the mentally ill and their families. Still, I would urge psychiatrists to check out NAMI’s website for some ideas about making sure that no one in their local communities can pretend they do not know the toll mental illness takes on the lives of everyone. Even if a person can truthfully say that no one they know suffers from mental illness (doubtful), he or she should realize that their tax money is being spent on police, corrections, public welfare and public health services required because we collectively do not fund mental health care, and preventive services, appropriately.  For proof, one need only look to the data published by the American Journal of Public Health a couple weeks ago that last year, more people died from suicide than traffic accidents.

Fifty years ago the US determined that traffic deaths were largely preventable and set out to reduce the death-toll. Redesigned roads, seat belts, more crashworthy cars, stricter enforcement of traffic laws and a nationwide campaign against drunk driving paid off. We need to approach suicide in particular and mental illness more generally with the same aggressive approach.