TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Richard J. Codey that would designate May of each year as “Mental Health Awareness Month” in New Jersey cleared the Senate today.
The resolution (SJR-62) is aimed at raising public awareness of mental illness and removing the stigma, fear, and misunderstanding about mental illness, thereby encouraging treatment. The resolution also calls on the Governor to issue an annual proclamation calling on public officials and New Jersey residents to observe the month with appropriate activities and programs.
“Mental health problems do not discriminate, and we shouldn’t either,” said Senator Codey (D-Essex, Morris), a longtime advocate for residents with mental illness and development disabilities. “By creating an informed public, we can overcome the biggest challenges we face – to reduce the stigma, fear and misunderstanding associated with mental illness – and increase the chances of those who are silently suffering to get help.”
Research for New Jersey indicates that approximately 242,000 adults, or 3.6 percent of adults, in 2013 to 2014 had a serious mental illness in the prior year.
Approximately one in five adults in the nation, or 43.8 million persons, experience a diagnosable mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or post-traumatic stress disorder in a given year, and approximately one in five youths aged 13 to 18 years experience a severe mental disorder at some point in their life.
Additionally, an estimated 26 percent of homeless adults in the nation who stay in shelters live with serious mental illness, and more than half of adults who experience a substance use disorder also have a co-occurring mental illness.
The month of May has been Mental Health Awareness Month in the nation since 1949.
The resolution cleared the Senate by a vote of 37-0 and next heads to the Assembly for consideration.