Saturday, May 22, 2010

May is Mental Health Awareness Month: Important Info & an Award

Hey, folks~
I posted this on my Facebook profile a few days ago. I compiled it from various reliable sources, most of which I listed in the message. Today, I celebrated Mental Health Awareness Month with my local NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) chapter. We had our annual picnic. I actually got a really neat award given to me at the picnic. It's called an Iris Award, named after Vincent Van Gogh and the irises he liked to paint while he was looking through his windows at the psychiatric hospital he was in. I am a huge fan of Van Gogh, so I love the idea of these awards. They are given to people who do work in the area of mental health, or who volunteer or somehow contribute towards mental health awareness or the lives of consumers (people living with mental illnesses).

Several police officers got the Iris award this year for saving people's lives after they took the Crisis Intervention Team (C.I.T.) training. 10,000 officers have been trained through C.I.T. in the state of Florida, and 900 of them have been trained in my county. I received the award for my work as as C.I.T. speaker, and in the Consumer Council. I was really honored to receive it and I got to catch up with an old friend there as well. My mom came too.

Now, here is the information I put together for Facebook, which I think is worthy of posting here:

Facts You Should Know About Mental Illness

As May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I would like to offer you a moment to cultivate some awareness on this topic.

-The institution in the United States housing the largest number of people with mental illnesses is not a hospital, but is in fact the Los Angeles County Jail. (source: Pete Earley’s excellent book Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness)

-Approximately 2.2 million people have Schizophrenia in the U.S. That is 8 people out of every 1,000. The illness is twice as common as AIDS. When applied to the 2004 U.S. Census residential population estimate for ages 18 and older, this figure translates to 57.7 million people (source: National Alliance on Mental Illness,

At least 40 percent of them are not receiving treatment at any given time. Thus, there are approximately 900,000 individuals with schizophrenia who are not being treated.

There are at least as many individuals with schizophrenia who are homeless, living on the streets, and in shelters, as there are in hospitals and related facilities.

There are more individuals with schizophrenia in jails and state prisons than there are in all hospitals and related facilities.

Individuals with schizophrenia are increasingly the victims of crimes, including robberies, assaults, rapes, and murders.

People with mental illnesses (ie, mental health consumers) are far more likely to be victims of crimes than to be criminals themselves, despite whatever you have seen on Law & Order that makes it look as if everyone with Schizophrenia is a serial killer.

Public psychiatric treatment services, housing , and rehabilitation services for individuals with schizophrenia are often grossly inadequate and, in many states, getting worse.

The total direct and indirect costs of shizophrenia in the United States in 2000 were approximately $40 billion. That was more than the entire budgets of the National Institutes of Health and the VA combined.
Approxmately $10 billion of that $40 billion was spent on federal disability payments (SSI and SSDI) for individuals with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia was the single largest diagnosis for individuals receiving both SSI and SSDI.

(source for above: Surviving Schizophrenia by E . Fuller Torrey)

An estimated 26.2% of Amercans, ages 18 an older, about one in four adults, suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year.

Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia generally show up when one is in her/his late teens or twenties (for women it’s later than for men).

The average age for onset of mood disorders, such as depression and Bipolar disorder is 30.
You know someone who has a mental illness. Your neighbor, partner, friend, colleague, fellow student, college professor, sister, grandfather, child, niece, tennis partner, hair stylist, or governor may have a mental illness of which you are not aware, because people with mental illnesses, contrary to what you see in movies and television, actually do look like people.

On Creating Change:

If you, yourself, has a mental illness, know that you are not alone.

If you do not have a mental illness, don’t worry, they’re not contagious, and most of us don’t bite.

Phrases like “you’re crazy”, “that’s nuts”, “what a lunatic”, etc. are offensive and serve to further the stigma that enshrouds mental illness and prevents people from getting the health they need. We may all say these things without realizing the harm they cause, but it would be best to not do so.

You can’t get a mental illness by talking about mental illness or reading this message. Have no fear.
You can’t get a mental illness by talking about it, or by talking to someone who lives with a mental illness, or……by being a friend, lover, caring family member, neighbor, Facebook friend, coworker, etc…of a person living with a psychiatric disability.

You can’t get a mental illness by being lazy, stupid, or by being a jerk. Such character issues have no correlation to mental illness.

You can harm a person with a mental illness by being afraid of her/him, embarrassed by her/him, ashamed of her/him, and by being completely ignorant about her/his illness.

Being weird, silly, dumb, poor, a criminal, or many other derogatory terms, do not cause mental illness. However, it is true that most people with serious mental illnesses end up living in poverty.

Appropriate medication and therapy can successfully treat psychiatric disabilities and give a person her life back.

Medication and therapy are extremely expensive and therefore unaffordable for many people with mental illnesses.

Medication often comes with negative side effects, such as extreme obesity an Diabetes (particularly antipsychotic medications).

There is no cure for any mental illness known at this time.

We need a cure.

To get a cure we need more research.

To get that research we need funding.

Besides needing funding for research, we also need funding for community mental health centers, social services of all kinds, drop-in/recovery centers, and clubhouses such as The Vincent House in Pinellas Park which helps people with mental illnesses (ie, consumers) function in the world and find worthwhile work.
We also need more funding for Crisis Intervention Team training for law enforcement officers.

We need more public awareness campaigns to educate the public, and also better training on psychiatric disorders for medical professionals. For example, the excellent recent campaign at

We need more counseling centers on college campuses a college age is the age of onset for Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder.

We need more people to come out and speak about their own mental illnesses, in an effort to educate those around them and make people without mental illnesses realize that Frankeinstein, serial killers, and crazed maniacs on horror movies do not exactly represent us accurately.

We need to come out, as it were, of the "craziness closet".

If You Have a Mental Illness:

You are not alone. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You deserve equality and respect.
Organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Mental Health America can be very helpful

If you are feeling suicidal or in a crisis, please call 1-800-273-TALK.

1 comment:

  1. That's a very informative and comprehensive post. The statistic about MI in prison is sad. Congratulations on your award! Adventures in Anxiety Land


I welcome comments from all readers and encourage you to leave them! Please do. However, due to spam, I review each comment before it can be posted, so it may take 24-48 hours before your comment appears on the blog. Please be patient. I post comments that are not spam.Note: my definition of "spam" includes ALL links to sites claiming to cure or provide "the solution" for incurable diseases such as Schizoaffective Disorder and Schizophrenia. Vulnerable people come to my blog, and I will not let them be preyed upon, but people who post snake oil remedies on the internets. Take your garbage and peddle it elsewhere. Since Blogger doesn't weed all that garbage out, I've been doing it myself for years.