Mental Illness Awareness Week stretches from Oct. 1-7. With nearly one in five American adults estimated to experience mental illness, it is crucial to eliminate stigmas surrounding mental illness in order to encourage people to come forward and treat their ailments and to be more understanding of their suffering.


For her debut book, Susie L. Landown-Clarke penned “Mental IIllness—Mi Doesn’t Look Like Me,” an intimate portrait of the pain, anxieties and uncertainties of mental illness. A book launch celebration will be held on Oct. 21 from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. at the Dallas Marriott Quorum at the Galleria, located at 14902 Dallas Parkway.


“Clearly, it is vital that society encourages open dialogue about this dark, shunned illness that lurks in isolation affecting millions of minds throughout societies. We have to offer solace to mental illness sufferers by extending a hand but also an olive branch to grasp life-changing resources, especially for our youth,” Clarke stated in a release for her book.


Clarke described her book as multifaceted, though penned as a non-fiction biography about her personal struggles with mental illness. Clarke became acquainted with mental illness after the stressors of her life—being a combat Veteran, careerist, mother and wife—began to pile up.


“I became overloaded with life’s pressures. My brain’s capacity to be cognitively responsive became impeded with psychological chaos, contributing to a mental pause,” Clarke stated, citing daily obligations and incidental traumas as the root causes of her mental ailments. Coupled with three strokes and a trio of head-on vehicle collisions within a short period of time, Clarke experienced cerebral dysfunction and memory loss, conditions which she chronicles in her book.


“[A] stigma of mental illness is that not only does society believe that those who experience mental illness lack mental fitness, but also that the effects are lifelong without recovery,” Clarke said. “I do believe that one must acknowledge their diagnosis of the illness, but not own the prognosis of the illness. Acknowledgment is an admission that I need help, not that I am guilt-shamed because I asked for help. This is the most important step, but it is often too fearful to take because of societal perceptions.”


Such societal stigmas, according to Clarke, often make it difficult for those suffering from mental illness to share their realities with others. The added stress of worrying about the reactions of friends and family members can aggravate the already unpleasant symptoms of mental suffering, creating yet another major life stressor.


“There is much work to be done in alleviating these stigmas,” said Clarke. “The best way to alleviate mental illness stigmas is to promote awareness by extending community outreach to utilize various platforms of dialogue.


“We must implement measures that are proactive, preventive and protective rather than reactive after an incident has occurred,” Clarke advised. “It is unconscionable that more is not being done in our communities, schools, workforces and social platforms.”


Anyone interested in previewing the book can access the first five pages and several excerpts at http://authorwebservices-gem.net/AuthorHouse/746124/.


October is also the month in which a variety of mental illnesses are nationally observed. National Depression Screening Day is Oct. 5, and World Mental Health Day is Oct. 10. Additionally, October recognizes ADHD Awareness Month. Please join in the discussion of bringing awareness to mental illness.