There is power as well as comfort in hearing other peoples story, particularly when it comes to personal experiences with mental illness. Every year The Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester invites speakers, some very well known, to share their personal story or connection to mental illness with community members who attend our annual benefit dinner event. We have heard from actors, singers, authors, athletes and astronauts all who willingly shared their struggle with depression, anxiety, addictions or more serious debilitating conditions. It is estimated that 26.2% of the US population ages 18 and older
suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder year, and mental illness is the leading cause of disability.
Mental illness affects one in five people today, so there is a very large population of people who are seeking advice, resources or encouragement from those who are living with a mental illness or knows someone who is. Our strategy in asking others to share their story, is to raise awareness of the commonality that mental illness plays in our lives; it can affect a family member, a friend, a co-worker or even yourself. Personal stories inspire others to take action, seek help and will strengthen ones understanding of how mental illness plays affects all of us.
For the most part, people who are affected by mental illness look and act just like any other human being on the planet, and most people can often recover from their illness, or can
maintain its ill effects via medication services and or therapy. People need to understand that mental illness is a condition that requires treatment, and with the right support and help, most can live a normal, productive life. But the fact is; even though help is available, less than half of children and adults with diagnosable mental health problems receive treatment.
Our annual dinner event, which highlights personal stories of others, coincides with the celebration of October’s Mental Health Awareness Week. In 1990, the U.S. Congress established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) in
recognition of efforts to raise mental illness awareness. Since then, mental health advocates across the country have organized community events to enhance public education about mental illness. This October also marks the 50th anniversary of The Community Mental Health Act, signed into law by President Kennedy. Today, community mental health centers, such as MHCGM, help people to manage their mental illness by providing those who seek treatment, with the tools and resources needed to improve quality of life. Hope and recovery is
possible and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Shame and stigma too often leave people feeling alone and isolated with their illness. We need to let others know that asking for help is not a sign of weakness -- it is a sign of strength. To learn more about the signs of mental illness or the 2013 Annual Celebration for Mental Health dinner and awards benefit, go to: www.mhcgm.org. Proceeds from annual fundraising events will help to provide essential mental health services for needy families in the community.