May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Submitted by Stark County Mental Health Task Force
Look around you. One out of every four people that you see will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. Less than half will receive treatment.
In order to promote mental health and provide better understanding of mental illness, the Stark County Citizen’s Mental Health Task Force joins millions of Americans in supporting May as Mental Health Awareness Month. By doing so the Task Force strives to ensure people living with mental health conditions know that they are not alone, that hope exists, and that the possibility of healing and thriving is real.
Although the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions has come a long way, the level of stigma remains high. This level of stigma is one of the major barriers to seeking treatment. Until mental illness becomes as readily understood and accepted as physical illness like cancer and heart disease, the consequences will remain high. Some of the consequences of lack of treatment include:
$193.2 billion in lost earnings per year
Mood disorders like bipolar and depression are the most common causes of hospitalization for persons aged 18-44
Individuals with serious mental illness face an increased risk of chronic medical conditions
Students with mental health conditions have the highest dropout rate
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
Each day an estimated 18-22 veterans die by suicide
A significant number of inmates in prisons suffer from a mental illness
So, what can be done? The most important step to reducing the stigma of mental illness is to speak out. If you experience a mental illness, tell others about it. Describe how it feels to live with a mental illness. For others, learn all you can about mental illness. Provide a non-judgmental listening ear when someone speaks about their experience with mental illness.
Mental illnesses are common and treatable. Help is available. We need to speak up early and in real, relatable terms so that people do not feel isolated and alone. We need to help remove the shame and stigma of speaking out, so that more people can be comfortable coming out of the shadows and seeking the help they need.
Other steps you can take to promote mental health awareness include:
Become involved with the Stark County Citizen’s Mental Health Task Force. The group meets quarterly at the Bradford Library.
Join in the Mental Health Awareness Walk coming in the Fall
Advocate for mental health services with your State and Federal officials
If someone you love suffers from a mental illness, attend the monthly Family Support Group at the Health Department
Participate in community education and awareness events
So please, during the month of May, commit yourself to increasing awareness and understanding of mental health. Take steps to protect your own mental health, and advocate for the need for appropriate and accessible services for all people with mental health conditions.
If you or someone you care about suffers from a mental health condition or may be contemplating suicide, you can get help by calling North Central Behavioral Health Systems at 309-647-1881.
The Stark Citizen’s Mental Health Task Force meets quarterly at the Bradford Library. The purpose of the group is to promote mental health access, advocacy, and education in Stark County. The next meeting of the Task Force will be May 19. Anyone interested in joining the group is welcome. For more information, contact Beth Smith at the Henry and Stark County Health Department at 309-852-0197.

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