May 19, 2023 Perspective

Raising Awareness about Mental Health, Reducing the Stigma of Schizophrenia

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and on May 24, we observe World Schizophrenia Day. These annual events aim to raise awareness about mental illness, reduce stigma, provide support, advocate for those affected by mental illness, and honor those who cope with it every day.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), mental health refers to a person’s emotional, cognitive, and psychological well-being. Shockingly, one-in-five U.S. adults experience mental illness each year, yet only 50% receive treatment. Although mental health has recently been in the news more frequently, barriers to treatment remain.

Stigma surrounding mental illness, limited access to treatment, and healthcare policies and strategies are some of the barriers that raising awareness can help tear down. Schizophrenia, a chronic, debilitating mental illness, affects millions of people in the U.S. per year and is highly stigmatized. It is characterized by positive and negative symptoms, as well as cognitive and functional impairment. Approximately 1% of the U.S. population develops schizophrenia during their lifetime.

Negative symptoms of schizophrenia (NSS) are a core clinical feature affecting 30-60% of patients. They are broadly defined as a reduction or absence of normal behaviors related to motivation, interest, or expression. Unfortunately, there are currently no FDA-approved treatments for NSS. However, Acadia is working to change that.

This year, NAMI is celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month with the #morethanenough campaign. It’s a reminder of the inherent value of every individual. No matter their diagnosis, appearance, socioeconomic status, background or ability, every person is worthy of more than enough respect, support and access to treatment.

At Acadia, we are also supporting the Schizophrenia & Psychosis Action Alliance (S&PAA) for their “Day of Action” campaign in May. These efforts include a number of policy-focused events that aim to draw attention to the need for better treatment and care for those living with schizophrenia, including S&PAA’s participation in the Alliance for Health Policy’s webinar series, a briefing on Capitol Hill to address barriers to psychiatric care and the impact of the FDA’s REMS strategy, and visits with elected officials to advocate for policy reform. Additionally, our team will participate in the 2023 Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in May.

Learning more about mental health and mental illness like schizophrenia increases awareness while it decreases stigma, enabling brighter moments for people who struggle and their loved ones.