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Mental Health Month celebrates stopping the stigma

Washington Times-Herald - 5/14/2024

May 13—May is Mental Health Month and a number of organizations are reaching out to the public to raise awareness about mental health issues and how people can receive services they may need.

Traditionally, Samaritan Center was a main provider of mental health services in Daviess County. A reorganization has those same services being offered under the name of Family Health Center of Daviess County.

"We are taking time this month to talk more openly about mental health. We want to inform our communities, inform our clients about mental health and how to be able to live a healthy mental health life," said Cher Wehrman, spokesperson for the Family Health Center of Daviess County. "There are so many different diagnosis and pieces that comprise mental health that people don't recognize. There are signs that people may be facing a crisis. We want to be able to discuss mental health more openly and that will help them seek treatment sooner and more quickly be able to live a life that is more normal."

Among the things the organization is doing this month is sharing additional information on mental health on social media. They will also be hosting their third annual children's mental health fair at the Willows office later this month.

"Our children's services are for kids under the age of 18 and we have so many providers that can help in different areas. Some work with younger children, some work better with teens. We do different programming that involves the family," said Wehrman. "We also have staff immersed in the schools in our four-county area. They work closely with the kids and the teachers and administrators so that the kids can learn how to deal with what they are experiencing."

Daviess County Family Health also works with Youth First, which has counselors within all of the area schools.

Youth are not the only people getting some extra attention during mental health month. Generations, Area 13 Agency on Aging, is working to improve the mental health of seniors by getting them connected with other people.

"I think what we see in people we deal with is isolation. We have clients that may not see anyone for days on end, so we have been trying to beef up our effort to deal with that social isolation that a lot of clients' experience," said Brenda Hancock, Generations Area 13 Agency on Aging Community Resource Coordinator. "That isolation was made more obvious during the pandemic, and even though it is not as bad now, that is something we are trying to address."

Hancock says the agency is offering a number of classes that offer dual benefits. For instance, one class helps seniors work on their balance while spending a couple of hours per week socializing. Another provides socialization while working on management of chronic disease and a third provides socialization and exercise.

"These programs help us get people out into the community and interacting with one another. We also do what we call 'coffee and canvas' that are led by a professional artist. It is free and people get together paint and have a nice time," said Hancock. "We try to focus on keeping people in a positive state of mind by working on things they can do to be active and remain active in the community, staying active with their loved ones. Volunteering is a great way to get connected."

Often, people needing mental health services are in crisis and need that help right away. The health center organization has created a help line (833-664-3575) that was paid for by a grant to provide crisis services for mental health.

"We now have a 24-hour a day crisis hotline available to people in our community to call in and speak with someone if they are upset, distressed or need to talk to somebody," said Wehrman. "Our hotline is staffed with therapists, social workers, peers. The staff on the call line have been working emergency services for 20 plus years."

One of the biggest problems tied to mental health is substance abuse. Officials say that is one area that they keep seeing more growth.

"Our substance disorder area does have an uptick in care. That is a good thing because that means people with issues are asking for help," said Wehrman. "Sometimes people self-medicate. That can be overuse of alcohol, not taking their own prescriptions correctly and then there are the illegal substances. We work closely with the recovery world because we know how important recovery is to the well-being of our clients."

People are becoming more open about mental health issues than in the past, but there still remains a stigma that officials are trying to overcome.

"Sharing the message of mental health is no longer taboo. Sharing dialogues with people is important," said Wehrman. "It's OK to not be OK. We all have bad days and they will pass. We should keep an eye on our friends and families to make certain those bad days do not become more."

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