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ARLINGTON, VA — Every year, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness, yet less than half of them receive treatment. In addition, about half of the U.S. population lives in a designated Mental Health Professional Shortage Area.
That’s why the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is highlighting some of its major support resources — peer support groups and the new NAMI Teen & Young Adult HelpLine — for Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), Oct. 1–7, 2023.
NAMI’s MIAW theme — “Together We Care. Together We Share.” — conveys the power of coming together in community, which can be healing, as people gather to share their experiences.
It is also the name of a campaign NAMI, in partnership with Kohl’s, launched in October 2022 to recruit new support group facilitators and increase participation in underserved communities. Since then, NAMI has started 124 new support groups and significantly increased the diversity of participants. While peer support groups are not a substitute for professional mental health care, they offer unique benefits of connection and validation.
“During Mental Illness Awareness Week, we want everyone to know: NAMI is here for you,” said NAMI CEO Daniel H. Gillison Jr. “Support groups can be a powerful cornerstone in the journey to mental wellness, offering a sense of belonging and the assurance that none of us is alone.”
“Given the unique mental health crisis among our youth, we are also launching the NAMI Teen & Young Adult HelpLine, which is nationwide and free of charge. It provides a safe space where young people can talk to a peer who understands what they’re going through.”
Teens and young adults who need help, or know somebody who does, can reach the NAMI Teen & Young Adult (T&YA) HelpLine by calling 1-800-950-6264 (select option “3”), chatting online, texting “Friend” to 62640 or emailing email@example.com Monday–Friday, 10 a.m.–10 p.m. ET.
“At the NAMI HelpLine, we hear many times each day from young people who are struggling, and we are committed to helping them thrive,” said Dawn Brown, National Director of NAMI HelpLine Services. “Using our expertise, we have developed information and resources specific to the needs of teens and young adults. Understanding the importance of peer support, we can now offer them an opportunity to connect with another young person trained to listen, understand and help.”
In 2021, 42% of high school students felt persistently sad or hopeless, 29% experienced poor mental health, 22% seriously considered attempting suicide and 10% attempted suicide.
NAMI has made young people a growing focus of its work. Most recently, NAMI partnered with Girl Scouts of the USA to create three new mental wellness patches: Knowing My Emotions (Girl Scout Juniors, grades four–five), Finding My Voice (Girl Scout Cadettes, grades six–eight) and Showing Up for Me and You (Girl Scout Seniors/Ambassadors, grades nine–12).
These new patches, made possible by the HCA Healthcare Foundation, provide useful tools to help girls safely identify and explore their feelings, seek support and find resources for help, if needed. This program is part of GSUSA’s ongoing Mental Health Initiative, which was launched in 2021 in response to the mental health crises among youth.
In 1990, the U.S. Congress established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) in recognition of NAMI’s efforts to raise mental illness awareness. Since then, mental health advocates across the country have joined with others in their communities to sponsor activities, large or small, for public education about mental illness. To learn more, go to nami.org/MIAW.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health advocacy organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.
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