Happy World Mental Health Day and Mental Illness Awareness Week!  World Mental Health Day was first celebrated in 1992 by the World Federation for Mental Health to bring awareness and advocacy to mental health.  Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) was established by Congress two years earlier to draw attention to the unique experiences and needs of individuals who live with mental health conditions.  Each year, World Mental Health Day is celebrated on October 10th and Mental Illness Awareness Week is celebrated during the first full week of October.

As we learned during our recent leadership meeting in Charlottesville, 1 in 5 American adults lives with a mental health condition.  That’s 20% of us! If it isn’t you, it might be one of your closest friends or family members.  It might be your doctor, your mailman, your child’s teacher, your neighbor. Anyone in your life could have a mental health condition.  In fact, multiple people in your life probably do.

Many people who live with a mental health condition suffer in silence.  While there are many reasons that someone may choose to keep quiet about their experience, a major culprit is stigma.  “Stigma” refers to negative perceptions of an individual simply because they have a mental health condition.  Stigma can be shown in verbal statements (e.g., “You’re crazy!”) or in actions and behaviors (e.g., exclusion from a group or event).  Several research studies have shown that stigma increases feelings of shame and decreases the likelihood that someone will seek treatment.  In fact, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), less than half of people who need mental health services receive them.

This is where we come in.  UniWellness is our HIPAA-compliant platform that allows individuals to meet with their mental health providers using secure live video chat.

When stigma makes it scary to be seen in a counselor’s office, we bring the counselor to you.  When stigma makes you feel ashamed to receive treatment, we connect you with your counselor so that you can unpack, break down, and eliminate those feelings of shame — from the comfort and safety of your own home.

You work at a college or university, community services board, or outpatient mental health practice or substance use center.  Can UniWellness help you serve more people?
UniWellness is an already-built platform.  It can be quickly licensed, branded with your logo and customized with features most important to you.  Contact us to learn more and determine if UniWellness could work for you and your patients.

You don’t have a mental health condition but know someone who does.  How can you support them?
Remember that one of the best things we can do is hold our arms wide open.  Understand that life can be very difficult to navigate with a mental illness.  Let your friends and family know that you’re available to listen to them, to empathize with them, to support them.  Hold their hand. Sit with them when things are really hard. Validate their feelings, even if they don’t sound logical to you.  Check in on them often, especially because it’s very hard to reach out when they’re struggling.

Happy World Mental Health Day and Mental Illness Awareness Week, readers.  Keep fighting stigma in your communities. It takes a village to make change.

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