By Penny Sitler, Executive Director
Mental health deserves as much attention as physical
For my final May is Mental Health Month message, I want to stress how important it is to understand that our mental health deserves just as much attention as our physical health.
On average, people wait ten years from the onset of symptoms to diagnosis of mental health disorders. By the time ten years have lapsed, people are at what MHA terms #Stage4, meaning they’re incarcerated, hospitalized or, tragically, lost to suicide. Prevention and early intervention will facilitate much better outcomes so we encourage people to get help #B4Stage4. Few people will wait ten years to seek medical help for physical illnesses including cancer, heart disease or diabetes. Please don’t ignore mental health issues either!
Linda Rosenberg, outgoing president and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health, shared the following in her final message: “Startling figures show that average life expectancy in the United State dropped for the third straight year, driven by increases in overdose deaths and suicides. You are now more likely in this country to die from an opioid overdose than a car accident.” The National Suicide Prevention Foundation recently shared shocking statistics showing that suicide is the number one cause of death for 10 to 14-year old children in our country and the second leading cause of death for 15 to 24-year olds.
It’s alarming that our country’s average life expectancy is being reduced due to behavioral health issues. We’re at a critical point where something must change. One in five Americans experience a mental health issue each year and nearly half of us will have a diagnosable mental illness at some point in our lives. Only 42 percent of those with mental health issues seek care. That’s a lot of people with undiagnosed, untreated illnesses that are treatable. They’re people just like you and me. They’re the people who teach our children, work in our local businesses and protect our communities, our parents, cousins, spouses and neighbors – in short, they’re the people who make up the fabric of this country.
If people you know are behaving in an unusual way, not fulfilling their responsibilities at work, school or home, not participating in routine daily activities, not taking care of themselves in the way they normally would, please have a conversation with them. Some specific signs and symptoms are too much or too little sleep, eating too much or not enough, not showering, wearing dirty clothes, withdrawing from others, not showing up to work or school, not being able to concentrate or make decisions, being irritable, angry or despondent. Please reach out and ask them if something has happened to them and how you can help.
Patricia Harris, Denison University Head Athletic Trainer, recently shared this message: “Parents of teens and pre-teens, learn the signs, talk to your kids. Tell them it’s OK to not be OK; it’s OK to fail. Failure is not final!” This is a message for all of us. Let’s stop the disturbing trends in our community and get help B4Stage4.
If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741; locally dial 211 or text your zip code to 898211. Call MHA of Licking County at 740-522-1341 if you need guidance.
Printed in The Newark Advocate on May 26, 2019.