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Mental Illness Awareness Week

3-mental-illness-awareness-weekMental illness impacts 61.5 million Americans in a given year. And while a mental diagnosis can be a deeply personal struggle, it also directly affects friends and family members who are learning how to understand and help their loved one.

Education and empathy are important tools for family members to have as they aid in recovery. That’s why Mental Illness Awareness Week, Oct. 5-11, is an important opportunity to learn more about the symptoms of major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other mental health conditions.

“Effective communication between family members is so important,” said Janis Turner, Assertive Community Treatment Team (ACTT) lead for Mecklenburg County, MSW, LCAS, LCSWA. “A mental health diagnosis is not hopeless, it’s not a death sentence,” she said.

There is a misconception that substance use is a choice and mental illness is a reflection on the family because of genetics, she explained. That is why many people don’t get help or are afraid to talk about it. According to NAMI, only one-third of adults and less than one-half of children with mental illness receive treatment. 

But early identification and treatment can make a big difference for successful management of an illness as well as recovery. “When a diagnosis is made, that is the time I start teaching people to be recovery focused,” Turner stressed.

“Many people say their diagnosis was traumatic to them,” she continued. “But I tell them and their family members, ‘don’t let your diagnosis dictate the rest of your life.’” 

Oftentimes, a diagnosis can create strained relationships between family members because they don’t know how to deal with the changes. Turner teaches them about creating strong, healthy boundaries.

“Out of growth and change comes recovery. “When you focus on people’s strengths, the things they do well, along with nutrition, medication and counseling, there’s a road to recovery – and people find it on a regular basis,” Turner said.

During MIAW, take time to learn more about the symptoms of, and treatments for, mental illness. If you or someone you know needs support, please contact Monarch at (866) 272-7826. Information about specific diagnoses and treatment options is available from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) at or from its HelpLine at (800) 950-6264.

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