May is Mental Health Month, alternately called Mental Health Awareness Month, an observance that’s been around since 1949 to “raise awareness of mental health conditions and mental wellness for all.”
The “mental health awareness” we are promoting during this commemorative month is the one that’s tragically missing in people with severe mental illness: awareness of their own mental illness.
A neurological syndrome called “anosognosia,” this "lack of insight" affects an estimated 50 percent of individuals with schizophrenia and 40 percent of those with bipolar disorder. It is the single most common reason people with severe mental illnesses don’t take the medications that would stabilize them and a compelling reason that court-ordered interventions like assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) are necessary to save lives.
Upon this outset of the 62nd observance of Mental Health Awareness Month, the Treatment Advocacy Center introduces a new, four-minute video containing dramatic footage illustrating the condition that renders millions of people unable to choose treatment because they don’t believe they are sick.
"Anosognosia" is narrated by Dr. E. Fuller Torrey and contains startling clips of Russell Weston being interviewed after his arrest for the 1998 shooting deaths of two U.S. Capitol police officers. Weston believed he was defending the world from cannibals; he did not believe he suffered a mental illness. Weston has never been tried and remains hospitalized with paranoid schizophrenia.
For more information about lack of awareness into illness, see the recently updated backgrounder, "Anosognosia: A cause of violent behavior in individuals with severe psychiatric disorders," by Dr. Torrey and visit our anosognosia page.
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