May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The National Alliance on Mental Health in New Jersey, a statewide nonprofit group, is dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and their families affected with mental illness.

NAMNJ's Associate Director, Phil Lubitz, said there is a very simple message the organization wants to get out to the public this year: Mental health illnesses are just like any other illnesses. Mental illnesses are treatable and people do often recover.

Mental health issues affect about one in five people across the nation, including adults and children in New Jersey, Lubitz said.

About 6 to 7 percent of the adult population in New Jersey suffers from depression at any time. Lubitz said for children, that number is even greater. More than 10 percent of the children ages 12 to 17 suffer from depression, he said.

The most common form of mental illness in New Jersey is anxiety, Lubitz said. About 18 to 20 percent of the population, including children, have a diagnosable anxiety disorder.

But there is help available. In New Jersey, there is a requirement that all insurance policies cover behavioral health treatment, including both mental health and substance abuse treatments.

So Lubitz said the first course of action a person must take in order to get help is to contact his or her insurance company. For people who don't have insurance or are covered by Medicaid, New Jersey has mental health centers in every county that offer a range of mental health and substance abuse treatment.

NAMINJ has a list of mental health events going on across the state during the month of May at naminj.org. For more information on mental health illness and recovery, a person can also call NAMINJ at 732-940-0991.

Among them is NAMI Mercer's annual walk on May 5, from noon to 3 p.m. at the Educational Testing Center in Princeton.

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