Each year, the first full week of October is dedicated to Mental Illness Awareness by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The event falls on October 2 through October 8 this year. During that time and throughout October, NAMI and nearly 1,000 state organizations and NAMI affiliates will raise awareness of mental illness by hosting activities and events.

One in five Americans lives with a mental health condition. These conditions are more than just occasional emotional ups and downs. They are long lasting medical conditions that cause changes in our moods – how we feel and what we think. It is important that anyone with a mental health condition seeks proper treatment in order to live and work productively and meaningfully.

Unfortunately, there is a great deal of stigma related to mental illness. That’s where Mental Illness Awareness Week comes in. Each year, the campaign raises awareness and reduces the stigma associated with mental illness grows stronger.

Mental health is an important issue for everyone, at many levels. It matters to individuals, to families, to corporations, to communities. There are many things that can be done to raise awareness of mental illness that can make an impact at every level. You can make a difference in your community – for the people you know personally with mental illness, and for millions of people across the country.

NAMI Minnesota is dedicated to improving the lives of children and adults with mental illnesses – and their families. They offer more than 500 free classes and presentations each year, along with more than 70 support groups, including two web-based groups that launched at the end of September, one for young adults and one for parents of school-aged children with mental illness.

Throughout October, Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) will air a series of programs to create more public awareness. The programs were developed by NAMI Minnesota, in partnership with the Make It OK Campaign. Topics include: Stigma & Mental Illness, Facing Mental Illness, Families & Mental Illness, and more. The programs will air on various dates in October.

NAMI offers lists of books and movies that tell stories of mental illness and help raise awareness. From fiction and memoir to feature films and documentaries, these resources can inspire conversations and help reverse the stigma of mental illness.

Actress Glenn Close understands that the first step in addressing mental illness is to talk about it. She and her family co-founded Bring Change 2 Mind (BC2M), a non-profit organization designed to start the conversation about mental health, and to raise awareness, understanding, and sympathy. BC2M is an excellent resource for learning about mental illness and the experiences of others.

You can join thousands of people across the country changing the stigma of mental health conditions by taking the Stigmafree Pledge. Learn about mental health. See the person, not the illness. Take action – spread the word, raise awareness, and make a difference.

For more information on Mental Illness Awareness Week and events around Minnesota, visit NAMI Minnesota.

If you or someone you know needs immediate help, please call the Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).