October is a month that aims to raise awareness surrounding mental illness. Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct. 3-9), Depression Screening Day (Oct. 7) and World Mental Health Day (Oct. 10) were all created to spread awareness, help those in need and end metal illness stigma.

Mental illness is a medical disease — it does not discriminate. One in four adults experiences a mental disorder in any given year. One in 17 adults lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder.

Support for mental health is especially important this year. Severe budget cuts threaten mental health services across the country, creating an unprecedented mental health crisis. The costs of cutting state mental health budgets are high — people who do not receive treatment end up in hospitals, shelters, in jail or dead.

These budget cuts come at a time when people need help the most. Hard economic times have caused many to experience anxiety or depression for the first time. This is why Thrive Counseling Center (120 S. Marion St. in Oak Park) is opening our doors for free depression screenings throughout the month of October. Anyone can walk-in from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays for a quick, confidential screening.

Early identification and intervention result in better outcomes. Treatment works, but only if a person can get it. Now, more than ever, we need to protect and strengthen state and local public mental health services.

With the 2010 elections on the horizon, there’s no better time to tell political candidates that mental health care gets your vote. Visit www.CapWiz.com/nami/home to take action and advocate for mental health services. This useful action center — supported by the National Alliance on Mental Illness — will give you immediate access to the most current mental health issues, and allow you to contact your state and national representatives immediately.

But don’t stop there! Reach out to schools, faith communities, local law enforcement, friends, neighbors and others to talk about mental illness and recovery. Let’s all become more aware and help break the stigma — and silence — that has often surrounded the topic. By changing attitudes, we can change lives.

Dan Kill
President and CEO, Thrive Counseling Center

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