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Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) (also known as Mental Health Awareness Week) was established in 1990 by the U.S. Congress in recognition of efforts by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to educate and increase awareness about mental illness. It takes place every year during the first full week of October. During this week, mental health advocates and organizations across the U.S. join together to sponsor a variety of events to promote community outreach and public education concerning mental illnesses such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Examples of activities held during the week include art/music events, educational sessions provided by healthcare professionals, advertising campaigns, health fairs, movie nights, candlelight vigils, and benefit runs.
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. However, stigma surrounding mental illness is a major barrier that prevents people from seeking the mental health treatment that they need. Programs during Mental Illness Awareness Week are designed to create community awareness and discussion in an effort to put an end to stigma and advocate for treatment and recovery.
Mental Illness Awareness Week also coincides with similar organizational campaigns in early October such as World Mental Health Day (World Federation for Mental Health), National Depression Screening Day (Screening for Mental Health), and National Day Without Stigma (Active Minds).
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