Amid a sea of pink commemorating breast cancer and its victims, there occasionally appears a little snippet of green ribbon about this second week of October, which has been designated as Mental Health Awareness Week.
While there is actually an entire month (May) dedicated to mental illness, it has nowhere near the cachet or the public support that breast cancer does. (In fact, it gripes me that we have a whole month devoted to just one type of cancer. Why can’t October be ALL Cancer Awareness Month?) You don’t see NFL quarterbacks sporting green cleats, or news stories about people wearing green T-shirts, visors, socks, and towels as they race for the cure for schizophrenia or depression.
Not to minimize the suffering borne by breast cancer patients and their loved ones, but this country’s priorities are seriously mixed up. Not even heart disease or diabetes receives the publicity—or the funding—that breast cancer does, and mental well-being is still the poor stepchild of health-related causes. I can’t help wondering, if female breasts weren’t so objectified by our over-sexed culture, would there be so much attention focused on them?
The fact is, we can live without “ta-tas” (or whatever infantile name you want to give them), but unless we’re members of Congress, we can’t do without functioning brains. That’s why there’s such a need for mental health awareness and adequate financing for mental health treatment EVERY day—not just during early October and the merry month of May.
The White House began a dialogue about mental health some time ago, but as with many things that come from politicians’ mouths, very little of substance has resulted thus far. It’s sad that unless there’s a well-publicized act of violence somewhere, no one in power ever has anything to say except platitudes about keeping guns out of the hands of “the mentally ill”, as if all Americans with psychiatric conditions were unstable freaks.
I don’t expect it to happen in my lifetime, but it’s my fervent hope that one day our society will consider what goes on in peoples’ brains to be at least as important as what goes on in the rest of their bodies. Until then…..Happy Mental Health Awareness Week, and never take your mental health for granted!