While mental health is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about summer, the month of July was National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.
In the midst of backyard barbecues, cocktails by the pool, 4th of July firework celebrations and baseball games, many around you suffer in silence.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 9.8 million adults aged 18 or older are living with serious mental illness. Among adults, the prevalence of serious mental illness is highest in the 18 to 25 age group, yet this age group is also the least likely to receive services or counseling. In 2008, 6.0 percent of African Americans ages 18-25 had serious mental illness in the past year. Overall, only 58.7 percent of Americans with serious mental illness received care within the past 12 months and the percentage of African Americans receiving services is only 44.8 percent.
Mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are medical conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. These illnesses do not discriminate, affecting persons of any age, race, religion, or income.
Mental illnesses are treatable. Most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan. The treatment for each mental disorder varies, for some counseling and therapy is enough, but with others medication is needed with the counseling, then with the more severe psychological disorders either short term or long term hospitalization is sometimes necessary because the patient is a danger to self or others.
Mental illnesses are frequently stigmatized and misunderstood in the African American community. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), working in collaboration with the Ad Council launched a national public service advertising campaign designed to raise awareness of mental health problems among young adults in the African American community.
The campaign aims to promote acceptance of mental health problems within the African American community by encouraging, educating and inspiring young adults to step up and talk openly about mental health problems. The television, radio, print and Web ads feature real personal stories of African Americans, like Susan L. Taylor the founder and CEO of the National CARES Mentoring Movement and Editor in Chief Emeritus of Essence Magazine.
The PSAs direct audiences to visit a new website, www.storiesthatheal.samhsa.gov, where they can learn more about mental health problems and how to get involved.
NAMI – National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, “About Mental Illness” www.nami.org
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2009). Results from the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings (Office of Applied Studies, NSDUH Series H-36, HHS Publication No. SMA 09-4434). Rockville, MD. www.samhsa.gov/index.aspx