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How to reduce the stigma around mental illness

Posted on by Alice Yoder, MSN, RN

 

Do you know the 5 signs that may mean someone is in emotional pain and in need of help?

LG Health is a regional partner in the Campaign to Change Direction. We have pledged to share the five signs of emotional suffering with 275,000 people in Lancaster County and to work together to change the culture surrounding mental health. Here are the signs:

  • Personality changes
  • Agitation
  • Withdrawal
  • Poor self-care
  • Feelings of hopelessness

The statistics in Lancaster County are alarming

According to the statewide Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, in Lancaster County, 34 percent of 18- to 44-year-olds, 27 percent of 45- to 64-year-olds, and 14 percent of 65-year-olds and older reported that their mental health was not good one or more days in the past month.

The 2013 Pennsylvania Youth Survey determined that Lancaster County youth are struggling. Consider this: 27.1 percent of Lancaster County sixth graders, 31.8 percent of eighth graders, 35.8 percent of 10th graders and 29.5 percent of 12th graders responded that they “felt depressed or sad MOST days in the past 12 months.”

And many of these students considered committing suicide. Incredibly, 8.5 percent of Lancaster County sixth graders, 16.1 percent of eighth graders, 21.3 percent of 10th graders and 16.9 percent of 12th graders responded that they considered suicide one or more times.

As a county, what can we do?

Besides knowing the 5 signs, we must continue a serious discussion — one that doesn’t end when the shock of a celebrity’s death wears off, but one that continues well into the future with a thoughtful, conscientious dialogue about how to improve the community’s mental health.

And we must work together to reduce the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Mental illness is a physical condition much like any other, including cancer, diabetes or heart disease. But because it is misunderstood, people with mental illness sometimes are embarrassed and do not seek the treatment they need. As a community, we can work to erase the stigma that surrounds it.

Two years ago, using local, state and national health statistics and goals as guides, LG Health identified mental health as one of three community health priorities we would address with our partners. No one organization can solve the complexities of this issue. It requires a collaboration among businesses, faith-based organizations, schools, health providers and insurers, and many others.

We’ve held a Mental Health Summit with hundreds of community members and healthcare professionals to evaluate the county’s mental health needs and identify ways to meet these needs. Together, we developed a vision for mental health services that will help people in Lancaster County achieve their highest level of mental well-being.

As a next step, a Mental Health Collaborative has been established to foster partnerships and action teams that will address the county’s mental health needs in a comprehensive way.

LG Health and its collaborative partners will address needs across the lifespan — from women experiencing postpartum depression after the birth of a child through childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age. The partners also will address suicide risk factors such as substance abuse.

For people suffering from severe depression, it may feel like there is nowhere to turn. But there is. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is suicidal, contact Lancaster County Crisis Intervention’s 24-hour hotline at 717-394-2631. Mental Health America of Lancaster County offers free support groups. For more information, contact 717-397-7461.

If you’d like to become involved in the new Mental Health Collaborative, contact LG Health at 717-544-3283.

Together, we can enhance the health and well-being of every resident in Lancaster County.

 | Wellness Center

Alice Yoder, MSN RN, is Director of Community Health and Wellness at Lancaster General Health. Her particular area of focus is enhancing social determinants of health as the root cause of chronic disease. Yoder has led several community collaboratives including the Lancaster Health Improvement Partnership, Tobacco-Free Coalition of Lancaster County, Domestic Violence Coalition of Lancaster County, and the Mental Health Collaborative.

 
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