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For Mental Illness Awareness Week Oct. 2-8, let's celebrate achievements and commit compassion

Star Herald Editorial

Next week is Mental Illness Awareness Week. If you don’t have a mental illness or disorder, count your blessings, and if you don’t know someone with a mental illness or disorder, you’re in the minority.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, an estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — experience a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.
When applied to the U.S. census residential population estimate for ages 18 and older, this figure translates to more than 60 million people.
One in 10 children have a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.
One in 4 families have at least one member with a mental disorder, whether it’s depression, bipolar, anxiety, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias, schizophrenia, autism, ADHD or various combinations and degrees of severity.
Many people experience more than one mental disorder at a given time, and nearly half (45 percent) of those with any mental disorder meet criteria for two or more disorders.
While living or caring for a person with mental illness is difficult enough, enduring the stigma can be worse.
Next week is designated Mental Illness Awareness Week as a time to build awareness. We’d like to take it one more step and work on building compassion.
For one thing, we can make a conscious effort to use “People First Language,” as we do for people with any disability. For example, “a person with schizophrenia” rather than describing someone as “schizophrenic.” Maintain the individuality of people rather than defining them by a condition.
“People First Language” emphasizes worth and abilities and puts the person before the diagnosis or the label.
And some words should never be used, such as crazy, crazed, nuts, lunatic, deranged, psycho and wacko.
The same is true for phrases such as “afflicted with,” “crippled with,” “suffers from,” “victim of,” “stricken with.” This verbiage passes negative judgment on the quality of life for people with mental illnesses. Instead of  “John is afflicted with depression,” say “John, who has depression …”
If you or a family member isn’t touched by mental illness, be grateful. If you are, you’re not alone.
Luverne has a long-held reputation for welcoming adults with disabilities of all kinds (through employment and housing opportunities) and for making special education a priority in our schools.
In addition to building awareness of mental illness next week, let’s celebrate these achievements and commit to continued compassion and acceptance.

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