The month of May ushers in the promise of warmer weather and a renewed sense of hope for the future. This spring, as we anticipate the sunny days and balmy evenings of summer that lie ahead, I urge Americans to pause for a moment and focus attention on the millions of individuals who struggle with the hopelessness, pain, and isolation of mental illness. Every May for the past 11 years, as part of “Mental Health Month,” the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), a grassroots, nonprofit organization, has been instrumental in promoting public awareness about mental illness, and the stigma that continues to plague those who suffer in its devastating grip.
The statistics on mental illness are both heartbreaking and alarming. The tragic events of Tucson, Arizona; Aurora, Colorado; and Newtown, Connecticut should compel us to take notice of these illnesses which, in many cases, we prefer to ignore-until it is too late.
According to NAMI:
- One in four adults, approximately 61.5 million Americans, experience mental illness in a given year.
- One in 17, about 13.6 million, live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder.
- Approximately 20 percent of youth ages 13 to 18 experience severe mental disorders in a given year. For ages 8 to 15, the estimate is 13 percent.
Mental illness, and how to best recognize and treat it, is very much in the news these days. Unfortunately, stories reported by the media are frequently sensational in nature, and do not address the advances that have been made in this particular area of health care. Yet, now more than at any other time in history, progress is being made, and people being treated for mental illness, in all its many forms and manifestations, are capable of leading more productive lives.
This May, in cities across our land, as well as in other months throughout the year, advocacy groups such as NAMI will sponsor fundraising walks. These events offer Americans an opportunity to educate themselves on an important health issue that impacts us all.
I intend to participate in the NAMI Walk on May 18, 2013, at Stapleton Park, in Denver, Colorado, and I encourage you to do the same in a city near you. For more information, or to make to a pledge, please contact one of the organizations listed below.