Over the past weeks and months there has been a great deal in the news about mental health, the critical need for mental health care reform, initiatives to de-stigmatize mental illness, and efforts to focus the conversation on the importance of mental health and wellness. To bring attention to these efforts and the important work of the mental health professionals in our community, May is National Mental Health Awareness Month.
Tens of millions of Americans are living with the burden of a mental health problem. It’s not something hoisted upon some faceless stranger from somewhere else; it is a real issue for thousands of people right here in our own community. Our own family, friends, and neighbors, perhaps even the person reading this column – may be coping with challenges of mental illness including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and bi-polar disorder. These are frequently debilitating illnesses that can put stress on every part of a person’s life – a stress that often trickles down to impact the lives of other family members.
Help is available, and we’re fortunate to have some great providers and programs here in Orange County. Unfortunately, less than half of the children and adults with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they require. By bringing attention to the issues and needs of mental health through this awareness month, we hope to make those in need understand that they are not alone and perhaps simply start a conversation so they are made more aware of the programs and services that are available to assist them.
Under the leadership of Commissioner Darcie Miller, the Orange County Department of Mental Health works to ensure that quality mental health services - as well as those for developmental disabilities and chemical dependency - are accessible to all residents of Orange County and that they are delivered in a cost-effective, timely, and culturally sensitive manner. For more information about the Department of Mental Health, visit their pages on the County website at www.orangecountygov.com.
This first full week of May is also National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week. The theme of this year’s awareness week is "Out of the Shadows: Exposing Stigma." It’s critically important to remember that even our youngest residents have mental health needs that must be met. And, children, young people, and their families should not be reluctant to ask for assistance. We must work together to debunk myths, fight stigma, and bring matters of mental health out of the shadows and into our conversations each and every day.
One way we do this is through System of Care - a multi-faceted program dedicated to providing for the mental health and wellness needs of our young people and their families. It’s a partnership that brings together Orange County youth (ages 5-21), their families, and the individuals who care about them, with the services and supports provided by our community partners. These include mental health services, social services, the education system, family support, recreational services, vocational services, health services, the juvenile justice system, and substance abuse services. System of Care youth play a significant role in the care and services they receive. "No decisions about me without me" is the program’s slogan. To learn more, visit www.mysystemofcare.com.
It’s important that we care for the physical and mental health of our children today, because they are our future for tomorrow.
Until next week, I wish you good health and happiness.