October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it draws a great deal of attention. Rightfully so. The color pink turns up in many places, even on the uniforms of NFL teams, in support of the month.
But let us not forget that Oct. 5-11 is Mental Illness Awareness Week, with green ribbons marking support for a cause that the National Alliance on Mental Illness says affects the lives of at least one in four adults and one in 10 children across the United States.
Nearly 150 people in Cumberland County died as a result of suicide between 2007 and 2011, according the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Several mental illness survivors took to the Cumberland County Courthouse steps for a candlelight vigil Sunday night marking the beginning of the week. Joanne Fry was there. She lost her husband and son to suicide in the last two years.
At the event, two public service announcements developed by the county debuted. As The Sentinel’s Joshua Vaughn reported, the 30-second commercials are part of a campaign made possible by a $14,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse awarded to the county in 2013.
Serious mental illnesses include major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, major anxiety disorders (including obsessive-compulsive disorder), post-traumatic stress and borderline personality disorder, according to NAMI.
While strides have been made, a stigma remains around mental illness.
As Fry said at Sunday’s event: “There is help out there for people if they just reach out. There is a better choice than suicide. Their life is important. Their life does have meaning, and there is help. There is help for them, and we care.”
The more education that can be provided to those who need it, the better.
No one should be ashamed if they feel the need to seek help.