Guest Opinions

Guest Opinion: Educate yourself during Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health is Fundamental. This is the theme that the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Division of Behavioral Health has adopted for this year’s awareness campaign. Every May since 1949, people around the globe have been promoting mental health and educating others about mental illness. Mental health is fundamental to overall health, and yet, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, one in five adults and one in four children will experience a mental illness in any given year.

With these numbers in mind, it is essential that we treat mental health challenges with the same urgency and respect as we treat physical health encounters. An individual’s whole health depends on his or her ability to be well, both in mind and in body, and therefore mental health needs to be included in all public health conversations. This inclusion puts mental health issues in line with medical concerns and aids in the assessment and treatment of the individual. Speaking up about mental health issues, whether your own or everyone’s as in an advocacy situation, can help in lowering the incidence of the onset of a first psychotic episode. Speaking up also gives others permission to reach out because having a mental illness now carries less stigma as it is now seen as more common.

It is through good mental health that we collectively and individually are able to think, feel, be social, earn a living and appreciate life. It is important to understand and believe that recovery is possible. Knowing what mental health is, how to support mental health in Idahoans, and knowing the risks to mental health, not only increases the possibility of recovery, but it also decreases discrimination, which denies basic rights to those living with such illnesses.

Idahoans of all ages can and do experience serious emotional and mental health disorders. These disorders are real and treatable. When we look to serve a child or an adult, we strive to keep several treatment principles in mind: Is the treatment person-centered? Is the treatment strengths-based? Is the treatment family-driven? Is the treatment recovery oriented? We also want to allow for cultural appropriateness, client voice, acceptance, dignity and social inclusion when developing individual service plans.

Mental health professionals are not the only ones who can assist when someone is in need of emotional help. We can all learn more about mental illness by accessing reputable sources, such as Mental Health First Aid classes and the National Association of Mental Illness, for classes and support groups around the state. If you or a loved one is in need of a mental health assessment and/or treatment, know that recovery is possible. You can start by calling your primary care physician, calling your regional Department of Health and Welfare office or by dialing 211 for assistance. As always, if it is an emergency, dial 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

All around the state of Idaho, staff members in the Division of Behavioral Health are planning and implementing activities within their regional communities and collaborating with other agencies to educate and empower our citizens. If you would like to learn more about these activities, check out our website . Like any illness, know the warning signs, learn the appropriate actions to take and be a lifeline.