Mental Illness Awareness Week

Article Body

Mental Illness Awareness Week

About the Author:  This month’s Mental Health Memo is a joint effort from the staff at the Human Services Center and the Department of Social Services, Division of Behavioral Health.

The first week of October is Mental Illness Awareness Week. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 1 in 6 South Dakota adults live with some form of mental illness.  Despite this frequency, those who live with a mental health disorder or addiction often report they feel isolated and alone.

This year’s motto for Mental Illness Awareness Week is “Together We Care. Together We Share”.  The motto is meant to convey the power of coming together as a community.  Therapeutic benefits can take place when people gather to share their experiences and find support.  Communities also bring awareness to the commonality of behavioral health disorders.  This awareness can break down the very same stigmas that cause feelings of isolation to those living with a behavioral health challenge.  

The language we use is powerful, and your choice of words can help break down misconceptions and stereotypes; but, when not chosen thoughtfully, they can also contribute to them. Stigmatizing language – such as “crazy” — feeds negative perceptions, which can result in excluding people from jobs, housing, social activities and relationships. The individuals affected by these disorders may also begin to believe the negative things that others say about them, interfering with their recovery journey.

People living with a mental health challenge are people first.  Therefore, using person-first language puts the focus on the person, not their disorder or diagnosis.

To begin incorporating more inclusive, person-first language into your conversations about mental health you might make the effort to use the below suggestions: 

Instead of this……

Try this.

Mentally ill

Person living with a mental health challenge or use the diagnosis if the person prefers that language (i.e. major depressive disorder)


Person living with a mental health challenge/trauma


Person living with bipolar disorder


Person living with a substance use challenge or disorder


Person living with a substance use challenge or disorder


Person in recovery

Remember, that small actions can have a big impact in someone’s life and journey towards recovery. If you or someone you know is living with mental health or substance use challenge
, take note – you’re not alone. Find resources, support services and more at


The mission of the Human Services Center (HSC) is to provide individuals with a mental health or substance use disorder or both with effective, individualized professional treatment enabling them to achieve their highest level of personal independence in the most therapeutic environment.


The mission of the Division of Behavioral Health is to strengthen and support children, youth and adults with behavioral health needs through prevention and early interventions services, community-based substance use disorder and mental health services, crisis care and recovery support services and psychiatric hospitalization. The goal of the continuum of behavioral health services is to foster independent and healthy individuals and families in South Dakota.


To read previous editions of the Mental Health Memo visit