Mental illness cases in the United States – including depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia – are on the rise.
The spiking numbers are pushing the federal government and medical institutions to give mental health issues more attention. But awareness among African Americans remains low, despite the disproportionate affects of psychological disorders among Blacks.
To throw light on the growing national concern, mental health advocates are joining three organizations at Howard University tomorrow to launch a national campaign directed at curbing the problem. The daylong event, co-hosted by Howard, Elizabeth City State University and Florida A&M University, coincides with the first annual Historically Black College and University (HBCU) National Mental Health Awareness Day.
“Mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, are widespread in the U.S. and often misunderstood,” said Surgeon General Benjamin. “According to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse Mental Health and Services Administration), in 2005 there were an estimated 24.6 million adults aged 18 or older living with serious psychological distress, an indicator highly correlated with serious mental illness.”
The campaign will center on public service announcements and advertising, and the organizations partnering with the federal government include SAMHSA, the Ad Council and the Stay Strong Foundation. The goal is to raise awareness of the overlooked public health problem and to increase education and student awareness about mental health issues with an eye on fostering a more supportive and informed environment on HBCU campuses and in the larger community.
The Surgeon General says among adults 18-25, the prevalence of serious psychological distress is the highest in the adult population; yet this age group is also the least likely to receive treatment or counseling. Overall, only one-third of Americans with a mental illness or a mental health problem receive care, and the percentage of African Americans receiving treatment (6.8 percent) is half that of non-Hispanic Whites. African Americans are also overrepresented in high-need populations that are particularly at risk for mental health problems, including children in foster care, exposure to violence and homelessness.
The Ad Council and SAMHSA first launched the Campaign for Mental Health Recovery nationwide in December 2006. Additional public service efforts designed to reach Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans and Native Americans will also be launched this spring.
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