Letter: Work to improve the lives of those with mental health concerns
As a behavioral health industry, we must build capacity to serve the need: attracting new providers, expanding workforce, investing in prevention, and reducing barriers to care.
In America today, approximately 1 out of 5 Americans is suffering with a mental health issue, and approximately 1 in 25 adults is experiencing a serious mental illness that substantially interferes with one or more major life activities. The pandemic has further compounded the impact on mental health. Admissions to ERs have increased by 24%; the rate of suicides has increased; fatal overdoses have increased. Seventy-six percent of workers have indicated they are struggling with mental health challenges. The time to act is now.
As CEO of Prairie St. John’s, my staff and I have the privilege of serving many members of our community who are experiencing some of the most challenging times of their lives – mental illnesses that are often invisible to the casual observer in ways that physical illnesses are not. As a behavioral health industry, we must build capacity to serve the need: attracting new providers, expanding workforce, investing in prevention, and reducing barriers to care.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, providing an opportunity for reflection and action to address the stigma preventing individuals from getting care they need.
The good news is there is hope and available resources for recovery. Today, positive outcomes are not only possible, they are experienced every day. Like chronic physical illness, mental illness can be diagnosed and managed. Individuals who were once in despair can live their best lives.
What can we do?
- Listen and show understanding: If you suspect a loved one is struggling, offer to listen and encourage them to seek professional help.
- Share the Lifeline number (800-273-TALK) – a 24/7, free and confidential support line. Military veterans may press ‘1’ for dedicated support.
- Learn about implementation of the new 988 crisis line in your community this summer.
- In case of acute emergency, dial 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. Suicide is often preventable when people at risk receive the support that they need.
Our schools should encourage students to pursue careers in mental health fields. We need to inspire the next generation of talented professionals. Our medical staff works with regional psychiatry residency programs, and we have provided numerous clinical counseling internships to graduate students. Several of our psychiatrists hold professorships with medical schools in our region.
Our community must align for the best outcomes to support these vulnerable individuals. Working together, we can improve the lives of Americans suffering with mental health concerns.