For many of us, October is a time to focus on baseball. One in five major league baseball teams will be entering into the postseason having just won their division, and will captivate us on their quest to win the pennant. Approximately 20 million Americans will watch the World Series on television, and thousands more will spend an average of $500 to watch a game in person.
Fewer Americans are likely aware that the first full week of October is also Mental Illness Awareness Week. Yet, mental illness is an issue that affects many more of us each year. In any given year, one in five Americans will experience a mental illness. Approximately 20 million U.S. adults live with a serious mental illness, such as major depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
Chances are, you have a friend, family member or colleague living with a mental illness. Their goal is not a championship, but recovery. Recovery means something different to everyone -- but can include a complete remission of symptoms, or learning to manage one's illness so that they can carry out their daily lives -- going to work, or managing relationships.
Mental illnesses can happen to anyone, even the players on the field. San Francisco Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff went on the 15-day Disabled List earlier this season due to an anxiety disorder.
Mental illnesses are real, common, treatable diseases. According to the National Advisory Mental Health Council, the treatment success rate forbipolar disorder is a remarkable 80 percent.The recovery rates for other serious mental illnesses follow suit: major depression (65‐80 percent), schizophrenia (60 percent) and addiction (70 percent). Unfortunately, many individuals with mental illnesses will not even seek help -- because of shame, misunderstanding or discrimination around treatment for these illnesses.
It's time we learn how to be better "fans" to the people in our lives living with a mental illness. Just like the powerful influence playing to a home crowd can be, individuals living with mental illness are much more likely to continue on their journey of recovery with a strong support network -- of friends, family, and other social networks.
We can all learn a common way to talk about mental illnesses, and how to help, through Mental Health First Aid -- a public education program designed for anyone to learn how to support someone developing signs and symptoms of mental illness or in an emotional crisis. The in person course takes less time to complete than you'll spend watching one series - and courses are held in communities throughout the country.
Let us take a moment this week to have a conversation about mental illness. If you have someone in your life who you think may be impacted by mental illness, talk to them about your concern, show them you care. You just may be the relief they need.
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Rosenberg is president and CEO of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare.