I sat on the beach, watching waves flow gently towards the shore. I observed a lowering sun against a clear sky merging with a rolling ocean, which began to claim its presence just before evening. It was a beautiful sight.
As the waves became larger, I eased out further into the water. I wanted a deeper experience. The water washing over me felt good… at first. Then, I felt the force of the waves. Struggling to remain upright, I was knocked into the water 3 times. I became anxious, a warning that by moving forward I had reached the edge of my comfort zone. I had a stronger resolve for learning to swim.
The beach experience is illustrative of my move from mental illness awareness to mental health advocacy to mental wellness activation.
Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) is October 7 – 13, 2012.
Mental illness includes biologically based brain disorders, which affect a person’s mood, thinking, and behavior.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) led the push for the Congressional proclamation in 1990 establishing the annual Observance. This year's theme is Changing Attitudes, Changing Lives.
Awareness is vital first step. But, awareness is not enough. More is needed:
1. More education and understanding of the facts about mental illness. We can reduce the stigma that often leads to hiding, denying, and lying as well as no treatment, no recovery, no preventable loss of lives caused by mental illness.
2. More research into the genetic, structural, and chemical structure of the brain.
3. More mental health screenings for children, youth and adults.
4. More actions designed to eradicate disparities in “behavioral health (e.g., delayed diagnosis of mental illness; poor access to quality treatment, culturally incompetent treatment, availability of recovery options).
5. More adoption of life styles of holistic wellness (i.e., habits and practices, which promote optimal sense of aliveness - mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.)
6. More commitment by our faith-based, political, and social institutions in devoting resources for offering healing and promoting mental health.
7. More efforts to address economic, environmental, and socio-political conditions that contribute to these brain disorders (e.g., chemical toxicity, poverty, violence, malnutrition, neglect and abuse.)
Mental Health Awareness Week is not a celebration. It is a call to action.
What actions would you add to this list?