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Mental Illness Awareness Week Begins Today: Learn the Signs of Depression


Today, October 4th, is the first day of Mental Illness Awareness Week. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) would like to call your attention to a program now airing on PBS, Minds on the Edge: Facing Mental Illness.

The first full week in October has been put aside by Congressional degree as a time to raise public awareness of serious mental illnesses such as major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Other diagnoses include post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder and borderline personality disorder.

With the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, PTSD has found its way into the news and public consciousness. With the depressed economy and job losses, anxiety disorders and general depression is on the rise. There is an increase in suicides among our soldiers.

NAMI states that about 60 million Americans experience mental health problems in any given year. Of those, 1 in 17 lives with the most serious mental illness conditions. It is estimated that less than one-third get treatment.

To get yourself or a loved one help, it is important to learn the warning signs.

The signs of depression and suicide risk include:

- Change in personality - becoming sad, withdrawn, irritable, anxious, tired, indecisive, apathetic.

- Change in behavior - can't concentrate on school, work, routine tasks.

- Change in sleep pattern - oversleeping or insomnia, sometimes with early waking.

- Change in eating habits - loss of appetite and weight, or overeating.

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- Loss of interest in friends, sex, hobbies, activities previously enjoyed.

- Worry about money, illness (real or imaginary).

- Fear of losing control, "going crazy," harming self or others.

- Feelings of overwhelming guilt, shame, self-hatred.

- Having no hope for the future - "It will never get better, I will always feel this way."

- Drug or alcohol abuse.

- Recent loss of a loved one through death, divorce, separation, broken relationship; or loss of job, money, status, self-confidence, self-esteem.

- Loss of religious faith.

- Nightmares.

- Suicidal impulses, statements, plans; giving away favorite things; previous suicide attempts or gestures.

If you or a loved one, exhibit the above (especially the suicidal impulses), seek professional help. Call the Suicide Hotline or your family physician or you pastor. Reach out.

National Alliance on Mental Illness