Awareness months create issue apathy

Many of us look forward to October. It brings cooler weather and grants us license to wear silly costumes and flirt with diabetes.

But there is more to October than Halloween.

Grab a Sharpie and mark your calendar because October is National Month Month.

Just about every advocacy group in the United States uses the month of October as its awareness month.

The national observances in October range from the serious to the ludicrous. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, National Depression Awareness Month, Domestic Violence Awareness Month and National Cyber Security Awareness Month. It is also National Go on a Field Trip Month, National Seafood Month, National Construction Toy Month and Celebrate Sun Dried Tomatoes Month.

I didn’t even make those up.

The purpose of national observances is to educate the public about a certain issue or to increase appreciation about parts of a culture. But how is any one cause going to hold your attention long enough to do that when so many are fighting for space in your mailbox?

The notion of “awareness month” has turned into a joke. Although some might argue that sun-dried tomatoes are a sufficient cause for revelry, do they really merit a spot in the calendar?

Health, however, is no laughing matter.

About 178,000 women in the United States will develop breast cancer in 2007. More than 19 million Americans suffer from depression every year. Down syndrome afflicts more than 350,000 people in the United States.

These and other issues merit equal attention, but few get their fair share of the spotlight when they are all hurled to the public in one package.

The proliferation of national observances is problematic, especially in regard to health awareness campaigns, which already have to compete with one another for funding and celebrity sponsorship.

The truth is, there are many causes worthy of our attention and not enough months in the year.

National Hispanic Heritage Month? I don’t need a slot in the year to celebrate my culture. It’s a year-long fiesta.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month? The man who beats up his wife doesn’t stop to think about the time of the year before he gives her a black eye.

National Sarcastic Awareness Month? Sarcasm will come your way whether it’s October or not.

We shouldn’t need an annual reminder to care. There are some things that should always be on our radar.

Julieta Chiquillo is a sophomore news-editorial journalism major from San Salvador, El Salvador.