Building awareness - May is Mental Health Month

4/27/2015

Addressing mental health before Stage 4—this year’s theme for May is Mental Health Month—calls attention to the importance addressing mental health symptoms early, identifying potential underlying causes, and planning an appropriate course of action on a path towards overall health. May is Mental Health Month was started 66 years ago by Mental Health America, to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of good mental health for everyone. Mental health conditions should be treated long before they reach the most critical points in the disease process—before Stage 4. 

“When we think about cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, we don’t wait years to treat them,” said Dr. Colleen Erb, Clinical Psychologist, and Program Director for the Behavioral Health Center at Amery Hospital and Clinic. “We start before Stage 4—we begin with prevention. So why don’t we do the same for individuals who are dealing with potentially serious mental illness? This Mental Health Month, we are encouraging everyone to learn the signs, ask for help if needed, address symptoms early, and plan an appropriate course of action on a path towards overall health.” 

One of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition is to take a mental health screening. Mental Health America has online screening tools at mhascreening.org. MHA has also developed a series of fact sheets available on its website (www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may) on realizing the critical importance of addressing mental health early, recognizing the risk factors and signs of mental illness and how and where to get help when needed. 

“We are fortunate here in Amery to be able to provide outpatient services to clients of all ages, along with our intensive outpatient program for adults 45 and older, and our acute short stay inpatient unit for adults over 45 who are experiencing severe symptoms due to mental illness or various forms of dementia. But nothing breaks my heart more than hearing about someone who could have benefited from our services, but didn’t know that they existed,” states Erb. “I hear people say all the time that we need more mental health services in our area, but unfortunately, too often, the problem is that people aren’t aware of the services that already exist and how to access them.” 

With that in mind, the Behavioral Health Center is hosting a Mental Health Resource Fair on Wednesday, May 6th, from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. in Room ABC at the main campus of Amery Hospital and Clinic in honor of Mental Health Month. Mental Health Providers from the area will be available to talk with the public regarding the kinds of services they provide and how to get started.

“When feelings and emotions get overwhelming, it’s hard to know what to do,” Dr Erb said. “Sometimes, these early symptoms might not ever become serious. Like a cough, they often go away on their own, and are nothing to fear. But sometimes, they are a sign of something more severe and shouldn’t be ignored. Taking a screening or talking to your doctor is the first step to protect your mental health.”

Research shows that by ignoring symptoms, we lose ten years in which we could intervene in order to change people’s lives for the better. During most of these years most people still have supports that allow them to succeed—home, family, friends, school, and work. Intervening effectively during early stages of mental illness can save lives and change the trajectories of people living with mental illnesses. 

“Prevention, early identification and intervention work and help people with mental illness have productive lives, but if someone doesn’t know where to go for help it can waste valuable time. Sometimes people are afraid to commit to an appointment without knowing more about the therapist or services available” stated Erb. “That’s why we want to hold this resource fair. So that people know what help is available out there and have a chance to meet several providers in person to choose the one that can best meet their needs.”

Anyone interested in knowing more about mental health services in our area is invited for a light continental breakfast and conversation with area mental health providers on Wednesday, May 6th from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. at the main campus of Amery Hospital and Clinic. If you are a mental health provider that would like to participate, or you would like more information on the Mental Health Fair, please contact Linda Slaikeu at 715-268-0069. 

For more information on May is Mental Health Month, visit Mental Health America’s website at www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may.

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