Mental health advocates focus on curing the stigma this National Mental Illness Awareness Week

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - It's a sobering thought; One in every five Americans is believed to be suffering from a mental health issue like depression or anxiety.

This week marks National Mental Illness Awareness Week, a week established by Congress in 1990 to put the spotlight on a subject not talked about nearly enough.

This year, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is promoting the theme "CureStigma" to end the stigma of mental illness and a lack of compassion and understanding that can prevent people from getting help.

“When you feel anxious, you feel depressed, or you feel like there’s a lot of stress going on in your life, it’s okay to speak up, just as you would speak up if you had a lump under your skin or if you had migraine headaches," said Tyler Corson, a board member with NAMI-Virginia Beach. "We want young people and people of  every age to speak up when they have mental health issues.”

According to the CDC, suicides are on the rise in the United States. The suicides of both designer Kate Spade and renowned chef Anthony Bourdain shocked the world earlier this year.

To help people locally, Corson tells News 3 that NAMI has a number of peer support groups not only for those suffering from mental health issues, but also for family members too.

“(We have) education classes, 12 week classes where people come and learn what their loved one is going through, if they have a mental health disorder or illness. We have support groups that meet every week and we also have those for people living with mental illness. They’re called peer programming," she said.

In the past year, local cities have also put into place special hotlines where people suffering from mental illness or people considering suicide can reach others who have been in their shoes.

Corson says there is no health without mental health and talking about it can be the key to saving countless lives in the future.

"The more we talk about it, just like we did with breast cancer, the more normal it becomes and the more normal it becomes, the more people will come forward and speak about it," she said.

For more information on the programs offered by local NAMI chapters, click below:

NAMI Virginia Beach website

NAMI Hampton/Newport News website

NAMI Williamsburg

NAMI Mid-Tidewater Website

NAMI Albemarle information