For over 30 years, the first full week of October has been Mental Illness Awareness Week. This year, the NeedyMeds blog has observed Mental Health Month in May, Minority Mental Health Month in July, and Suicide Prevention Month in September. We’ve discussed how everyone’s mental health matters, the unique factors affecting mental health for vulnerable populations, and how to prevent devastating outcomes, but we have not yet touched on the realities of mental illness in 2021.

Twenty percent of the population — as many as 65.6 million Americans — live with some kind of mental health condition, with nearly 5% living with a serious mental illness that substantially limits their life activities. Those living with mental illness fight stigma while trying to survive under profound internal duress. Awareness is important to ensure resources are made available to those who need them and the stigma and misconceptions surrounding mental illnesses can be reduced.

Everyone has stress and difficult emotions on occasion, and this is completely normal. Mental illness, however, is any condition that

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September is National Blood Cancer Awareness Month, also known as Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness Month. Leukemia and lymphoma are types of cancer that can affect the bone marrow, blood cells, lymph nodes and other parts of the lymphatic system

Someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with blood cancer every three minutes, with someone dying as a result every nine minutes. An estimated combined total of 186,400 people in the United States are expected to be diagnosed with leukemia or lymphoma in 2021, leading to an estimated 57,750 deaths this year.

There are multiple types of leukemia, some more common than others. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) affects bone marrow and blood and has several subtypes that affect the type of treatment and likely outcomes, though will progress quickly if left untreated; acute myeloid leukemia (AML) affects cells that are not fully developed limiting their ability to carry out their normal functions, and can be difficult to treat; chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and chronic myeloid leukemia

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Photo by Jon Tyson

Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. Each year over 45,000 people in America die by suicide — a rate that has increased 41% since 1999. Mental health conditions are often seen as the cause of suicide, but 54% of those who commit suicide do not have a known mental illness

Suicide is rarely caused by a single factor, and is also affected by personal relationships, substance use, physical health, and stress from jobs, money, legal issues, and/or housing. The realities of the COVID-19 pandemic and continued systemic injustices have also had a chilling effect on Americans’ mental wellbeing. Awareness is important to end the stigma of suicidal feelings and help more people access life-saving help in dark times.

Anyone can have suicidal thoughts, but it is important to know they are not permanent. Having suicidal thoughts is not a sign of weakness or failure, but is a symptom of profound distress. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors can be very damaging and dangerous and should be considered a psychiatric emergency. 

Other than mental illness, there are a number of risk factors for suicide:

  • A family history of suicide;
  • Substance abuse — using drugs and alcohol results in mental/emotional highs and lows that can exacerbate suicidal thoughts;
  • Intoxication — more than a third of people who die from suicide are under the influence at the time;
  • Access to firearms;
  • A serious or chronic medical illness;
  • A history of trauma or abuse;
  • Prolonged stress;
  • Isolation;
  • A recent tragedy or loss;
  • Agitation; and/or
  • Sleep deprivation.
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This week is National Health Center Week. As healthcare has become more and more expensive, the need for low-cost healthcare has increased. Many people living in more rural parts of the country have a very limited number of options to see a doctor, and depending on their insurance status the number of available “in-network” doctors is even lower. Many people do not regularly see their doctor, only seeking healthcare when a more serious condition arises. It can be a stressful situation to be uninsured and have an unforeseen medical problem come up — especially during the ongoing pandemic. This week is meant to celebrate and raise awareness of local community owned and operated clinics providing high quality, cost effective, accessible care to more than 27 million Americans.

Community health centers have been vital to public health throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as the primary source of care for many low-income populations and vulnerable communities by providing free screenings

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Minorities in America have unique mental health experiences. Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC), and other minority groups experience systemic barriers in daily life that are so unrelatable for white Americans that many refuse to believe they exist. Recognizing the disparities in access and experience of mental health can raise awareness and reduce stigma for vulnerable people.

By nearly any measure, Black people suffer disproportionately in America. Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes compared to white women. Black children are more than three times more likely to die after surgery than white children. BIPOC face countless challenges to good health, among them food, transportation, and income. Healthcare services are often more expensive, with over 30% of medical expenses faced by BIPOC being associated with health inequities. The stress of living life inescapably affected by racism has very real effects on a person’s physical and mental health

Black people are

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