Getting Together This Week for Mental Health Awareness

Attention this week across the media and entertainment and other industries turns once again to an issue impacting millions of Americans: mental illness.

Oct. 3-9 is Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), an annual national public education campaign, led by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), that is designed to help raise awareness of mental illness, which impacted one in five American adults, even before COVID-19. Data from multiple organizations indicates the number of Americans with mental illness has only grown since the pandemic started in early 2020.

In 2019, 20.6 percent of U.S. adults (51.5 million people) experienced mental illness, according to NAMI. That same year, 5.2 percent of U.S. adults (13.1 million people) experienced serious mental illness (SMI), representing one in 20 adults, NAMI said.

Mental health needs grew significantly in 2020, according to Mental Health America, which said in February 2021 that almost 2.5 million people took an online mental health screening in 2020, representing the “largest real-time database ever compiled from a mental health help-seeking population,” it said. That compared to the 1 million people who completed a screening in 2019.

In 1990, Congress established the first full week of October as MIAW. Since then, mental health advocates across the U.S. have joined NAMI in the annual effort to educate the public about mental illness.

The theme of this year’s MIAW is “Together for Mental Health,” which is focused on the importance of advocating for better care for people with SMI, NAMI says at its website.

“Each day throughout the week, we will be raising the voices of people with lived experience to talk about SMI and the need for improved crisis response and mental health care,” according to NAMI.

This year’s MIAW also coincides with National Depression Screening Day on Oct. 7.

Several organizations in the M&E sector have done their part in recent years to help draw attention to mental illness also, including the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).

For example, NAB has been showcasing a suicide prevention toolkit for newsrooms that can be found here.

NAB has also provided a toolkit focused on journalists’ mental health that can be found here.

“America’s local radio and television broadcasters are committed to supporting the physical, mental and emotional health of our tens of millions of listeners and viewers across the country,” according to Gordon Smith, NAB CEO and president.

“Broadcasters also understand the toll reporting from the front lines of emotionally charged and dangerous news stories can have on journalists and newsgatherers, and we are dedicated to ensuring they have the tools needed to practice self-care,” he said Friday, adding: “From airing public service announcements to providing resources for getting help, I am proud of the work of broadcasters to make a positive impact on the issue of mental health.”