Plans for this year’s May 12th International Awareness Day for fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and related illnesses are in full swing. CFS patient Tom Hennessy, president of R.E.S.C.I.N.D., gave birth to the idea of Awareness Day in 1992.
The May 12th date was chosen to honor the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the English army nurse who was a pioneer of the Red Cross Movement. Nightingale was virtually bedridden with a painful and fatiguing illness resembling FM/CFS, yet went on to inspiring accomplishments, including the founding of the first School of Nursing.
Now Awareness Day activities take place worldwide in an effort to increase awareness of FM and allow patients and organizations to educate the general public, healthcare professionals and government officials. One of the most difficult aspects of having FM/CFS is that most of the symptoms are invisible, which makes it hard for others to understand what living with this debilitating illness is really like. That’s one of the reasons that Awareness Day is so important.
National Fibromyalgia Association Leading the Way
Since the NFA (formerly the National Fibromyalgia Awareness Campaign) was founded in 1997, the National Fibromyalgia Association has been one of the organizations leading the call for fibromyalgia awareness. By organizing a comprehensive Awareness Day program, the NFA has made it possible for patients and their loved ones all over the world to access resources that can help them make a difference in their local areas.
According to Lynne Matallana, NFA’s Executive Director, “The biggest impact of our Awareness Day program has been in smaller, less populated communities, where there is a need for FM information but local media coverage of the disease is limited or nonexistent. We provide the tools to help people do things in their own areas, and they have gotten quite a bit of press.” But she points out that any community can potentially benefit from Awareness Day efforts. Individuals and support groups have been successful in obtaining Awareness Day proclamations and media coverage in large cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
Many people with FM want to help get the word out about this devastating and poorly understood disorder but simply don’t know where to begin, or their energy is limited due to the debilitating effects of their illnesses. The NFA makes it easy to get involved by providing “ready-made” ways to make a difference.
What You Can Do
This year, the NFA has chosen the theme, “For A Better Tomorrow,” for its Awareness Day program, and we need you to get involved! There are a variety of ways that you can help with awareness efforts, whether you do activities individually or with your local support group. What you choose to do and how you do it is completely up to you. Here are some of the opportunities we offer:
An international program established by the NFA in 1999, the proclamation program has helped spread awareness of FM among lawmakers and the general public. Thousands of mayors and other elected officials have declared “Fibromyalgia Awareness Day” in their jurisdictions.
Alert the Media!
You can contact local media in order to educate them about fibromyalgia and Awareness Day. Local groups have used NFA’s press releases and sample letter to get media coverage of FM and details about their support group meetings out to their communities.
One of the simplest yet most important things you can do to help is writing letters to Congress or the legislative body in your area to let them know of the vast number of people who are concerned about fibromyalgia.
2002 Fibromyalgia Survivor Kits, “For A Better Tomorrow”
Each year the NFA creates a new design for the annual awareness campaign, which includes flyers, buttons, and posters, and more. The materials can be used to spread awareness and even set up displays at hospitals, libraries, or community events.
For more information and to:
Find out how to get a proclamation in your community
Learn how to use NFA press releases
Get a sample letter you can send
Order Survivor Kits
visit the National Fibromyalgia Association’s web site: