Mental Health Awareness WeekSo this is the 20th anniversary since Congress first established Mental Health Awareness Week as the first week in October.

The effort to increase awareness about mental health is based in the history of numerous government reports and well-meaning workgroups and such that have found that stigma still exists surrounding the diagnosis of mental disorders. Surprise, surprise. Of course it still exists. People who’ve never encountered someone living with a mental illness still believe it’s the kind of thing that “happens to other people.”

But it happens to a lot more “other people” than anyone realizes. In our lifetime, 1 in 5 Americans will have a diagnosable mental disorder. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just announced last week that the 12 month prevalence rate for depression stands at 9 percent. That means in any given year, 1 in 10 Americans suffer from the most common mental disorder, depression.

That’s a lot of depressed people.

But for many reasons, most of these people never seek treatment for their depression. Or any other mental disorder, too. They believe it’s too costly. Or it’ll take too long. Or it’s too much effort. Or they don’t want any psychiatric drugs, because of fears surrounding them. There are a whole host of reasons people suffer in silence with their depression or other mental health concern.

On a blog like this, I know I’m preaching to the choir. But we’ll try and reach more and more people each day with our resources and information, and hope, in some small way, to make a dent and a difference in people’s misperceptions about mental illness.

On Thursday, we’ll once again recognize the National Depression Screening day, in an effort to get more people to take the screening and see if they have a level of depression that rises to the level of concern. Left untreated, depression will often resolve itself over time. But it can take a lot of time — years, even — and many times a person who is depressed may go deeper down the dark path of despair.

My childhood best friend, Rob, went down that path and never came back. It’s one of the reasons I do what I do with Psych Central. And it’s a poignant reminder of the real consequences when we try and sweep our human frailties under the rug.

Share this article with a friend, a family member or a loved one who may be in need. You may do more than just help reduce the stigma of mental illness — you may save someone’s life.

Learn more about Mental Health Awareness Week from NAMI.