Gill column: Some climbs are steeper than others

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There’s always more to say about mental health in general and behavioral health care options in the community.

Last week I was talking about pastors in particular, and more to all of us about being willing to discuss, to recommend, to commend getting help when a mental health challenge is in front of us.

We need to admit our need for help to ourselves, just as you know you’re gonna have to get that ankle looked at when it can’t support your weight, or get a few stitches when the cut is not going to heal with some butterfly bandages and some first aid tape.

Most of us, and generally families can tell when the quick-stop medical check or even the emergency department visit is called for. Some things you tend to at home, and other things you go, whether you really look forward to the trip or not, to have a professional look in and add their care to your basic needs.

So talking about behavioral health the same way we do medical health is a smart, helpful, healing way to look at ourselves. Some of that is reactive, knowing when to get that help in the moment; a great deal of it will have to be proactive, being supportive and understanding of why such help is on hand, and used by others.

This is where we hear talk of “reducing stigma,” which is a fancy way of saying “get over yourself.” Stigma is saying “you don’t need a shrink” or “why would talking to someone who doesn’t know me do any good?” It comes from the culture, it can come within our own families, it can have deep roots in our own assumptions that need pulling at and eradicating.

That’s why we have groups like Mental Health America at work in Licking County, sharing information, telling stories, promoting hope. The Main Place is both reactive in being there to help people living with mental health challenges, and proactive in allowing those people to tell their own stories and participate in their own successful treatment.

A new voice in the field in Licking County is Postpartum Progress, a group addressing postpartum depression (PPD). The medical field tells us that one in seven women deal with some level of depression following childbirth, making it the most common complication today. Postpartum Progress is at work across the nation because they know that mood and anxiety disorders like PPD can be dealt with effectively if the mother is willing to accept professional help and support…and fathers need to support that acceptance, as well!

Locally, Postpartum Progress is participating in a very interesting awareness event called “Climb Out of the Darkness,” at Infirmary Mound Park on June 20 at 10 a.m. That date is no coincidence: their plan around the world is for communities to have such an event on a day close to the longest day of the year, the summer solstice. They want to “shine the most possible light on maternal mental illness.”

This is the third year globally for this event, and the first year “Warrior Moms” from Newark and Licking County will hold their own “Climb Out of the Darkness.” Christina Boeshart is coordinating our local walk, and you can contact her atmomsforlife43055@gmail.com, or check out their Facebook page “mothersofferingsupport” for info on how to register or sponsor.

The key is that when women and men in general, and mothers in particular, are aware of the reality of PPD, and seek help, the overwhelming majority are helped. Or as is said throughout the mental and behavioral health care community: “Treatment helps, recovery happens.”

And again, if you have concerns or questions, call our 211 hotline in Licking County; if you have an immediate concern for someone’s life or safety, don’t hesitate to call 911 or go directly to an emergency room.

But there are answers, and there is help. As we like to say in the faith community, the first step is finding hope. My faith says that God wants us to use all the hope and help available around us, so that Good News may abound. Making use of mental health services may not just be good news for you, but it might be a witness that opens a door for good news to someone else that you don’t even know is watching.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him where your help comes from at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Found in The Newark Advocate Friday, June 5, 2015

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