For many Americans it is the damage after the storm that people often don’t talk about–mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder–that strike in the wake of a catastrophic experience.
Post-trauma mental conditions are one of many mental disorders that affect some 57.7 million Americans in any given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which is observing Mental Illness Awareness Week, Oct. 5-11, 2008.
Organizations, including Allsup, which represents people nationwide for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, are helping to raise awareness about mental illnesses and the help available to people and their families.
Anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder and phobias, affect about 40 million people, NAMI reports. One in five veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan (almost 300,000 troops) will experience major depression or PTSD when they return home.
Other types of mental disorders also affect millions of people, including 5.7 million with bipolar disorder and 2.4 million who have schizophrenia.
“People living with mental illnesses often are among the most vulnerable in our society. Unfortunately, they also are often overlooked during disasters,” said NAMI executive director Michael J. Fitzpatrick, who recently announced the creation of a NAMI Hurricane Relief Fund to help individuals and families affected by hurricanes Gustav and Ike.
One of the most significant facts about mental illness is that two-thirds of people living with a condition do not receive treatment. During Mental Illness Awareness Week, the association is emphasizing the theme, “Building Community. Taking Action.”
Mental illness can affect anyone at any time, and the benefit for individuals and their families comes from realizing that mental health is a part of everyone’s well-being and healthcare.