Honoring the History & Progress of Behavioral Health

October marks an important period of awareness, education and history of behavioral healthcare in the United States. This month is for all of us, to recognize and reflect on the dignity of those we serve, the impact of our work and our role as community behavioral health providers.

Importantly, this week is Mental Illness Awareness Week, which runs from October 3 to October 9 and leads up to World Mental Health Day on October 10.

The National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) established Mental Illness Awareness Week in 1990 to fight discrimination, provide support, educate and increase awareness about mental illness. This year’s Mental Illness Awareness Week is centered on “Together for Mental Health,” NAMI’s new awareness campaign focused on the importance of advocating for better care for people with serious mental illness. For more resources, visit www.nami.org.

In 1992, the Initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health celebrated the first World Mental Health Day. The celebration is an international day for global health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma.

At the end of this month, we will celebrate the anniversary of a pivotal moment in community behavioral health. President John F. Kennedy signing the Community Mental Health Act into law on October 31, 1963 changing the field of mental health services and inspiring a new era of optimism and awareness of mental health needs. The law led to the establishment of comprehensive community mental health centers around the country, shifting away from institutional care and enabling Compass Health and other providers to serve clients in community settings where individuals can remain connected with their support networks.

Related to our work in behavioral health, October events acknowledge other challenges some of our clients and community members also experience.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month was introduced in 1987 as a way to connect and unite individuals and organizations addressing and raising awareness of domestic violence needs. The annual campaign reminds us that there are countless victims and survivors of domestic violence who deserve to be heard in a society with zero tolerance for domestic violence. To help raise awareness, download the Take a Stand Toolkit from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Finally, each year from October 23 through October 31, Red Ribbon Week raises awareness around the destruction caused by drugs in America to help keep kids drug free. In 1985, Enrique “Kiki” Camarena was a special agent who worked for the Drug Enforcement Administration and was kidnapped by drug traffickers in Guadalajara, Mexico. In response, people across the country began wearing red ribbons as a symbol of their commitment to raise awareness of the killing and destruction caused by drugs in America. This year’s theme, “Drug Free Looks Like Me,” was created by 7th Grader Marin Wurst from Solon Middle School in Solon, Ohio, as a reminder that Americans make significant daily contributions to their communities by living drug free. For more resources, visit www.redribbon.org/resources.

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