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Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) was established by the U.S. Congress in 1990 in recognition of the National Federation for Mental Health’s (NAMI) longstanding efforts to increase awareness and understanding of mental illnesses. Every year, for the first full week in October, mental health advocates and organizations across the country join forces to sponsor an array of events to increase awareness, promote community outreach, and to educate the public on mental illnesses such as anorexia, bulimia, major depressive disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

As reported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), an estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older, about one in four adults, suffer from a diagnosable mental illness in any given year. The statistics are truly staggering. As cited by NIMH, major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15-44 and affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.

NIMH’s cited statistics regarding the prevalence of suicide in the U.S. is similarly shocking; In 2004, 32,439 (approximately 11 per 100,000) people died by suicide in the U.S. More than 90 percent of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable mental disorder, most commonly a depressive disorder or a substance abuse disorder. The highest suicide rates in the U.S. are found in white men over age 85. Four times as many men as women die by suicide; however, women attempt suicide two to three times as often as men.

NIMH’s overview of the far reaching effects of eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder, is just as terrifying as an estimated 0.5 percent to 3.7 percent of females suffer from anorexia, and an estimated 1.1 percent to 4.2 percent suffer from bulimia. The mortality rate among people with anorexia has been estimated at 0.56 percent per year, or approximately 5.6 percent per decade, which is about 12 times higher than the annual death rate due to all causes of death among females ages 15-24 in the general population.

MIAW, along with its global counterpart, World Mental Health Day on October 10th, is one more way mental health professionals and the community they serve, help lift the stigma surrounding mental illness and provide those who suffer from mental illness an easier path to seek the treatment they need. For more information on this and related topics, please visit,