Celebrating Mental Health Awareness Days
Stigma around mental illness is incredibly damaging to those who are affected and looking for support. Because more science and treatments have emerged to help us understand mental health, the stigma decreases as we learn new ways to support community members who suffer. Mental health awareness days are nationally recognized to normalize the experience of living with mental illness and to build widespread support for those in need. For resources to support someone with a mental illness, consider licensed therapy, support groups, nonprofit organizations, and high quality inpatient treatment centers. If you or someone you love lives with a mental illness, explore these mental health awareness days for resources to show solidarity and support.
PTSD Awareness Day – June 27th
Post-traumatic stress disorder often occurs in victims of traumatic experiences such as war, robberies, violence, and abuse. Celebrated on June 27, PTSD Awareness Day brings light to the experiences of those who suffer from reliving past traumas and anxieties, both physically and emotionally. According to the Sidran Institute, almost 1 in 13 American adults develop PTSD throughout their lives, making this mental illness a common one. PTSD Awareness day aims to educate communities on the commonality of trauma, meaning that most adults will experience traumatic events in their lifetimes and must learn the warning signs if their trauma develops into a disorder over time. PTSD awareness also involves reducing the stigma that surrounds symptoms of the disorder, such as anxiety attacks or dissociation.
Communities well-known for their support for PTSD survivors include the military and sexual assault survivors. Military veteran groups and families are at the forefront of PTSD education, as the disorder often plagues veterans who return from the traumas of war. Nonprofit organizations as well as government departments (such as the Defense Department) promote resources for veterans and their families affected by PSTD and celebrate the month of June as an awareness month. PTSD also affects sexual assault survivors on a large scale as anxieties and physical traumas often last for life. Survivor communities share support through events, groups, trauma-centered therapy, and education for victims.
Depression Awareness Day – October 11th
Depression is a mental illness that occurs either naturally or following a life event and can affect anyone. Because of its ability to impact most people, depression is one of the more well-known disorders and is celebrated in varying ways by different organizations. October 11 is known as National Depression Screening Day, highlighting the need for preventive mental health precautions since depression can develop silently before symptoms appear. World Suicide Prevention Day is on September 10, as depression can lead to suicide if the victim does not receive the support they need in time.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 16.2 million adults have experienced a major depressive episode. Depression is widespread and awareness days are important in educating adults on the many symptoms and treatments available. One common coexisting mental illness with depression is addiction. Inpatient treatment centers often promote depression awareness as victims of addiction may not know they experience depression as well. Human resources departments and employers are often trained for warning signs of depression as it has become widespread. Thanks to depression awareness, the stigma has greatly decreased for the disease in recent years.
Anxiety Awareness Day – October 10th
Anxiety awareness is widely celebrated on Mental Health Awareness Day, October 10. This is a globally recognized day of education focusing on various mental health challenges and stigmas. In the United States, this is expanded during Mental Health Awareness Week (October 6-12), where nonprofits and agencies hold events and educational support groups to help those who suffer. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety is the most common mental illness in the U.S., largely because of its comorbidity with other illnesses. Victims of PTSD, depression, eating disorders, and more mental illnesses often experience anxiety in conjunction with their other symptoms.
Many communities and government organizations promote anxiety awareness through Mental Health Awareness Week, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI supports victims of anxiety and more disorders across the country through organized walks, support groups, educational literature, and community support each year. The best way to show solidarity for someone living with anxiety is to get educated and interact with organizations like these who provide support and show victims they are not alone.
Bipolar Awareness Day – March 30th
Bipolar disorder is often characterized by changes in mood, mindset, and energy that occur to the point of disease or disability to complete everyday functions. Bipolar Awareness Day is celebrated on March 30 and is especially notable because of an old myth that bipolar disorder was rare among the population. The National Institute of Mental Health has disproved this myth, with recent statistics showing almost 4.4% of adults experiencing bipolar disorder at some point in their lives. This escalates the need to show those living with bipolar that they are not alone, and that more resources are created each year to support them.
Among the communities providing support to celebrate Bipolar awareness day is the International Society for Bipolar Disorders. This organization provides global education, conferences, and a peer-reviewed journal meant to educate and drive treatment for a disorder that was previously less well-known. Because of the sometimes dramatic shifts in mood and energy for those with bipolar, the stigma surrounding this mental illness is more apparent than others. Celebrating Bipolar Awareness day is a powerful way to educate others on the prevalence of the illness and support those who suffer.
OCD Awareness Day – 2nd Week of October
Obsessive compulsive disorder is characterized by recurring thoughts and behaviors that sometimes incapacitate those who suffer from it. These thoughts can occur subtly or to the point of impacting daily life. The disorder can be triggered or develop naturally and there is often a stigma surrounding the compulsive behaviors the person cannot control. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, OCD is prevalent and affects 1% of the population. OCD Awareness Week is celebrated the second week of October and is internationally recognized to help understand the micro and macro behaviors around the mental illness.
OCD is not specific to a certain population or triggering experience. Bringing awareness to the experience of those with OCD can include introducing them to a community that accepts them, educating others on the behaviors associated with the disorder, and supporting accessible treatment. Among the communities that celebrate OCD Awareness Week is the International OCD Foundation. The IOCDF uses social media campaigns and live online sessions to bring awareness to anyone with the internet. For those looking to bring awareness to the disorder through political action, there is also a march for advocacy every year.
Eating Disorder Awareness Day – Feb 26th – Mar 3rd
Eating disorders are mental illnesses that can greatly impact the physical nutrition and wellbeing of the victim over time. Treatable but able to last a lifetime, eating disorders affect thinking patterns of the victim which then translate into harmful eating or binge behaviors. There are many cultural factors that trigger eating disorders, and awareness is aimed at reducing these on a large scale. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, at least 30 million people suffer from an eating disorder in the United States. Communities bring awareness to this common disorder throughout the Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Feb. 26- March 3, as well as World Eating Disorders Action Day, on June 2.
Supporting those with eating disorders begins with normalizing their experience and reminding them that research surrounding this prevalent disorder supports that they are not alone. The disease is highly treatable and many communities have been created to support those in need. Organizations such as the National Eating Disorder Association promote inclusiveness and acceptance of individuals at each stage of their journey with the disorder. Support groups, events, and even mental health screenings are available to learn more and reduce the stigma around living with an eating disorder.
Supporting Mental Health Awareness Days
Supporting individuals with mental illnesses is effective when entire communities educate themselves in support of those in need. Social media education campaigns, lobbying, support groups, treatments, mental health screenings, and research are slowly breaking down the stigma of living with mental illness and shedding light on the prevalence of each disease. The importance of letting others know they are not alone and that people care for them is invaluable. Celebrating mental health awareness days where we can show them they belong and that their futures can be bright can go along way.