Several days ago, President Biden reconfirmed May as National Mental Health Awareness Month for 2021. In his announcement, the President also acknowledged that the “COVID-19 pandemic has not only negatively impacted many people’s mental health but has also created barriers to treatment’. He explained that mental illness was on the rise even before Covid and that we need to treat this as a public health crisis as over 52 million Americans experienced some form of mental illness in 2019. Mental illness is not limited to adults either. Over 10% of youth reported severe depression. And many of the people living on the streets are affected by mental illness as well.
This mental health crisis did not happen overnight but began when funding was cut for facilities, treatment programs, and practitioners beginning in the 80s. President Biden is trying to address this in several ways within the American Rescue Plan. He has allocated a budget towards increasing the number of mental health professionals beginning in schools by adding school psychologists and counselors to address the mental health needs of students. He has also allocated funds for substance abuse and mental health care grants. These funds require States to provide pathways to prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery services — especially for underserved communities. Another allocation of funding is being requested to support Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics to expand access to high-quality, evidence-based behavioral health services involving peers and families, who are essential to mental health recovery.
In addition to the government’s commitment, many non-profits dedicate their organizations to improving mental health outcomes and removing the stigma associated with seeking treatment. For example, The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is promoting the message, ‘You Are Not Alone,” focusing on the value of connecting in safe ways, prioritizing mental health, and acknowledging that it’s okay not to be okay. In other words, don’t let the stigma of mental illness get in the way of seeking treatment. NAMI encourages people to share their stories whether they have been affected personally or through a family member or friend. NAMI wants people to know that mental illness doesn’t discriminate against people because of age, color, religion, or background. Anyone can suffer from it, and it’s not their fault. They provide a free 2021 guide to help people learn how to get involved through social media, events and sharing this important message with others.
Mental Health America (MHA) is another non-profit organization founded in 1909 dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness. One of the resources they offer is screening tools to help individuals understand and learn more about their own mental health. These tools are online, free, confidential, and scientifically validated to help provide early identification for those suffering. With over one million people a year taking their surveys, they have compiled the most extensive data set from a help-seeking population. The knowledge they have accumulated has enabled them to build out content to help connect people with the information and resources they need. As a result, they have altered their approach based on the feedback to meet people where they are, focus on mental health, not mental illness, and speak in clear non-clinical language. They have also found that screeners are looking for the following information, which includes:
- Additional information about mental health
- Worksheets, tools, or apps they can use to monitor their health
- Engagement with peers and others who understand what they are experiencing
- Referrals to care, services, and support
In addition to these two highly reputable non-profits, SAMHSA is a governmental agency with a 24-hour hotline that directs callers to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Their services are free and confidential, and the agency is part of the Health and Human Services Administration.
The bottom line is that no one should have to suffer alone, and no one should be embarrassed to ask for help. As a company dedicated to providing the best care possible for the elderly, FirstLantic has seen first-hand how older people are especially vulnerable to mental health issues like depression. We want everyone to be aware that there are resources available free of charge. And while May is dedicated to Mental Awareness, that doesn’t mean that we can ignore this serious issue the rest of the year. Educate yourself as much as possible so you can recognize the symptoms and ask for help sooner for yourself or a loved one.
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