From Bullying Prevention to Depression Screening Day, What You Need to Know this October

Reflecting on Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

With Back to School season in full swing, COVID cases of the Delta variant surging, and National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, September flew by in a whirlwind of activity, events, and heavy headlines. This year, each of these resonates more intensely than in most, as mental health concerns and resources for returning students, rising suicide rates among youth, and surging pediatric COVID-19 cases overwhelmed children’s hospitals and took over news feeds. 

Even with September coming to a close, renewed focus on mental health and concern for our young people does not have to fade into the background. Lessons learned this month can inform our actions all year long, including the knowledge that: 

  • Suicidal thoughts can affect any individual, regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, or background. 
  • While often considered taboo, September’s awareness period is meant to shed awareness on the stigma so that those suffering need not do so alone, and in silence. 
  • Talking about suicide is generally considered the best way to prevent suicide. Resources, like this guide from the Child Mind Institute, can help parents navigate these difficult conversations with their loved ones. 
  • Suicide prevention resources are there to support at times of need. 
    • Informational resources: warning signs and navigating a mental health crisis
    • Crisis resources: 911 should always be used for an emergency; the National Suicide Hotline is available to help when one is experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

 
Now, with Fall upon us, October brings changing leaves and a new array of impactful mental health awareness events. Here’s a quick breakdown about each October Awareness event, including resources that mental health professionals can use to support their patients’ holistic journeys towards wellness. 

Mental Illness Awareness Week 2021

Officially established in 1990, Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) runs the first week in October and acts as a dedicated time to raise awareness of common mental illnesses, undermine discrimination, and provide resources to support professionals, families, individuals, and friends. Raising awareness is a great service, because so many lives are touched by it. Approximately 1 in 5 adults is estimated to experience a mental illness. Most commonly, anxiety disorders impact the largest percentage of American adults, with an estimated 48 million diagnoses every year. 

This year, the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) is centering its awareness efforts around the theme of “Together for Mental Health.” By amplifying the voices of individuals who are living with severe mental illness (SMI), the organization hopes to spread understanding, teach important actions for intervention during moments of crisis, and shine a light on individuals whose stories can make a difference. 

To engage with their campaign, watch and share some of the featured videos below: 

What I Wish People Knew About Anxiety

What I Wish People Knew About Bipolar Disorder

What I Wish People Knew About Borderline Personality Disorder

National Depression Screening Day

While diagnosed depression affects an estimated 7% of Americans over the age of 17 and its diagnosis is indicated on over 11% of all emergency room visits, awareness, diagnosis, and screening remain far too low. That’s why every year, MIAW features the importance of screenings for depression on the first Thursday of October. 

While screenings are imperative for adequate treatment and condition management, screenings at a primary care setting hover around just 5%. Notably, according to the American Psychiatric Association, medical settings with a fully integrated EHR were more likely to promote and complete annual depression screenings

Screenings go a long way in providing treatment and can help save a life. This October 7th, promote local depression and mental illness screening resources for your community. 

Visit helpyourselfhelpothers.org or stopasuicide.org to get started. 

National OCD Awareness Week

While Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is well-known, it is often misrepresented in popular culture. Characters who prefer to keep their spaces extremely clean or hyper-organized often proudly exclaim: “I know, I know – I am so OCD.” 

While those with OCD may tend to obsessively clean, the actual disorder is much more complicated, which is why October’s annual awareness week is so necessary. Rituals, fears, taboo thoughts, tendencies towards hoarding, and extreme germaphobia are all hallmarks of OCD. And they have one thing in common. They all begin as unwanted thoughts that become irresistible actions. These compulsions can impede upon daily life and can make it feel difficult to get through a day. 

From October 10th-16th, the International OCD Foundation plans a series of lectures, art exhibits, fundraisers, online activities, social media campaigns, and more to help celebrate, spread awareness, and advocate for mental health legislation and advocacy. To learn more about this year’s events and how your agency can take part, visit iocdf.org.

National Bullying Prevention Month

Bullying is a negative pattern of behavior where the aggressor intends to cause physical or emotional pain. Sadly, it is all too common: about 20% of students aged 12-18 report being bullied.  

Bullying may be difficult to identify, because the hurt can take many forms and can occur either in person, via texts, through social media, or other online platforms. Importantly, bullying has a myriad negative consequences for everyone involved, including the aggressor, the victim, and even witnesses. While it is generally linked to adverse impacts on mental health, bullying is also correlated with difficulty in school, increased substance use, and suicidal ideations. 

Every October, organizations around the country observe National Bullying Prevention Month to help share educational materials and raise awareness about the importance of ending bullying and cyberbullying. Stop Bullying creates educational videos that help educators, parents, professionals, bystanders and more identify warning signs, learn responses, equip bystanders with helpful intervention tips, and more. Watch and share the series here

Research shows that adult intervention can go a long way in ending bullying behavior. There are many resources available to help inform and equip mental health professionals, school counselors, professionals, and parents: 

  • Stop Bullying has a comprehensive set of resources that all adults who work with or live with children should review: Training Center
  • Unicef created an informational guide for parents, when they need more information to help frame conversations about bullying with their children: How to Talk to Your Children About Bullying.

 
National ADHD Awareness Month

While ADHD is often casually discussed, it is too frequently left untreated. About 9.5% of children in the United States are diagnosed with ADHD; yet, experts believe that more than half of all children who are impacted by ADHD have never been formally diagnosed – or treated. Raising awareness early on for proper diagnosis in childhood is paramount, as adults with undiagnosed ADHD are more susceptible than the general population for various other mood disorders–from extreme sadness to anxiety and other emotional problems. 

That’s why October’s National ADHD Awareness Month is a welcome celebration for all those living with ADHD. It is an opportunity for professionals and those with lived experience to set the record straight on the myriad myths associated with the disorder. While it is widely believed that individuals with ADHD are unable to concentrate on anything, it is important to understand that they are driven to evaluate situations differently, often prioritizing tasks based on emotional intrigue and importance.  

This October, explore the official theme: “Reframing ADHD: Discovering New Perspectives.” All content, art, stories, memes and more are aimed to help educate the general public about ADHD so that they can help themselves or loved ones find reliable screenings, receive coaching or appropriate levels of treatment when necessary, and share helpful resources. 

Mental health professionals can use these creative celebrations of life with ADHD to start conversations with patients, discuss treatment strategies with parents of minors, and engage individuals in proper courses of action following diagnosis. 

A Month of Celebration

From the first day of the month all the way to Halloween, engage in these celebrations of what makes us uniquely human. By empowering individuals with knowledge, each event helps move the needle toward reducing stigma. Connecting individuals with relevant support groups, communities, coaches, and professional help can even help save a life. 

Lastly, consider utilizing a behavioral health-specific EHR. Myriad symptoms, diagnoses, and disorders require a sophisticated platform that can help providers follow a case history across both physical and mental health symptoms. They make it possible to conduct screenings, questionnaires and assessments on-the-go, which is critical for agile practitioners intent on standardizing diagnoses and treatment protocols. Clinicians can build treatment plans within their EHR, which facilitates goal-setting, progress, and customized plans built for every individual. 

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