World Mental Health Day: A Q&A with NAMI
October 10 is World Mental Health Day, a day aimed at raising awareness of mental health and wellness around the globe. For many mental health conditions, it can take a period of trial and error to find the right treatment plan for patients — but through clinical trials, discovering new and more efficient treatments can be made possible.
This year, we got in touch with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) for a Q&A session regarding current breakthroughs, mental health day activities, clinical trials, and more. Read all about it below!
What do you see as the purpose of World Mental Health Day?
We recognize World Mental Health Day to bring attention and awareness to the millions of people in the U.S. who are affected by mental illness each year. It is so important to measure how common mental health conditions are so we can understand the physical, social and financial impact — and so we can show that no one is alone.
1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year and 1 in 20 adults in the U.S. experience serious mental illness each year. Less than two-thirds get treatment. Awareness opportunities like World Mental Health Day and Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) shed light on statistics like these as we work to improve access to quality care.
We believe that mental health conditions are important to discuss year-round, however, highlighting them during MIAW and World Mental Health Day provides a dedicated time for mental health advocates across the country to come together as one unified voice. Since 1990, when Congress officially established the first full week of October as MIAW, it has been a time in which advocates have worked together to educate the public about mental illness.
It’s important to remember that there is no health without mental health. World Mental Health Day and MIAW are especially important in this way — encouraging all of us to recognize the importance of mental health and the steps we can take to improve the lives of those with mental health conditions.
What activities can people do to support their mental health on World Mental Health Day and every day?
The most important thing is to seek help when you need it, and NAMI provides a wide range of resources if you or someone you know is struggling.
The NAMI HelpLine is available to those looking for help with their mental health. HelpLine volunteers are working to answer questions, offer support and provide practical next steps. Available from 10:00 a.m.- 10:00 p.m. ET at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), email@example.com, or by clicking “Chat with us” at www.nami.org/help.
NAMI also provides support and education through free, peer-led mental health education programs. Across the country, thousands of trained NAMI volunteers bring peer-led programs to a wide variety of community settings, from churches to schools to NAMI Affiliates. With the unique understanding of people with lived experience, these programs and support groups provide free education, skills training, and support for families, for youth, for those with mental health conditions, and for military service personnel and veterans.
In addition to seeking help, it’s also key to speak openly about mental health and encourage conversation in your community. This is how we can prioritize mental health and reduce stigma.
Recently, 988 debuted as the new number to dial during a mental health crisis. Can you speak to the impact this has made?
We’ve already seen an impact in the short time since the implementation of 988 as the new number for mental health and suicidal crisis. According to the data released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the number of contacts to 988 via call, text and chat in August 2022 increased by 45% year-over-year — an increase of 152,000 contacts. Additionally, the data shows higher answer rates, reduced abandonment rates, and reduced wait times in August over July. This means thousands more people are quickly getting the help they need thanks to 988.
Are there any other new initiatives or developments you would like to highlight?
NAMI is currently growing our Cross-Cultural Innovation and Engagement (CCIE) work, including NAMI’s Sharing Hope and Compartiendo Esperanza outreach programs. The goal of NAMI’s CCIE work is to provide historically underserved and underrepresented communities, including communities of color and those with disabilities, with mental health resources that are culturally humble and address the needs and concerns of their community.
NAMI also continues to focus on reaching youth and young adults with a goal of raising mental health awareness among individuals ages 3-25 years old, their caregivers, and their educators, so that youth with mental health conditions get help early. From expanding our NAMI Ending the Silence program, a presentation about mental health for middle and high school students, to both in-person and online, to creating the NAMI College Guide for college students with mental health conditions — NAMI is working diligently to meet the mental health needs of all young people.
Finally, NAMI recently released its first book, “You Are Not Alone: The NAMI Guide to Navigating Mental Health,” by Dr. Ken Duckworth, NAMI’s Chief Medical Officer. The book covers how to get help, pathways to recovery, the intersection of culture and mental health, and many more important topics to guide any person’s mental health journey. NAMI’s hope is that this guide can help people find help and support sooner and make recovery more accessible. All royalties for the book will go back to NAMI to support our mission to improve the lives of all Americans affected by mental illness.
How do clinical trials factor into the mental health space?
Mental health conditions are almost as complex and diverse as the people they affect. Striving for a world where everyone has access to effective mental health treatment options — regardless of their diagnosis, genetic background, environment or additional health concerns — means continuing to explore potential new treatments. Clinical trials are essential to keep us moving forward to provide the most effective treatments to the most people.
What would you like the community to know about the importance of participating in mental health-related clinical trials?
Clinical trials are the final step of the research process to develop a new treatment option, demonstrating that the treatment is reliably safe and effective and establishing what the potential side effects and risk factors are. For these trials to work, they must have many participants from diverse backgrounds as treatments may affect people differently depending on age, sex, gender, race/ethnicity, and other factors. By participating in a clinical trial, you can help people in your community and across the world gain access to a new treatment option that has been thoroughly investigated from every angle.
How does your partnership with Antidote assist you in advancing research efforts?
Having Antidote’s clinical trial search tool on our website increases our community’s access to information. It offers a simpler path for people to find what trials are available nearest to them, thus hopefully increasing participation in clinical trials. Frequent communication between NAMI and Antidote provides both organizations access to resources and collaborations across the health education space.
In addition to NAMI and 988, what other resources are available to people who may be struggling with their mental health?
There are a lot of wonderful organizations focused on supporting individuals on their mental health journeys that offer a variety of resources. For more information, check our resource directory.
Additionally, you can check to see if your school or workplace has a counseling service or employee assistance program (EAP). Many schools, colleges, and businesses have these programs either to provide treatment or make referrals. In most cases, these services provide short-term counseling or therapy, but they may be able to help you find a qualified therapist that works with the company or school insurance plan.
You can use the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration treatment locator, which offers affordable options, like a sliding scale for low-income and uninsured people, and also lists Medicare/Medicaid providers.