Mental Health Awareness Month

Why it’s important

MARQUETTE — May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on people across the world. Over the last 14 months, children, for the most part, have been required to learn remotely, taking away the ability to see friends and classmates on a daily basis.

Families have been unable to see their loved ones in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Rambunctious sports fans and music-loving concertgoers have been unable to gather to share the common love of cheering for their favorite team or singing in unison with their favorite band.

The list goes on. Now more than ever, the issue of mental health has sprung to the forefront, due to vast isolation over the last year.

Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed nationally since 1949 when it was first implemented by the National Association for Mental Health, better known today as Mental Health America. The month promotes mental health education and support, with the hope of decreasing the stigma often associated with seeking help for mental illness.

The state of Michigan is doing its part in recognizing the month and its importance, with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer releasing a statement last Thursday.

“This Mental Health Month and year-round, we must remember that it’s OK to not be OK,” Whitmer said. “I encourage Michiganders to reach out to friends or family who may be struggling or get help themselves if they need it. Together, we can remove the stigma around accessing mental health care and uplift each other.”

Elizabeth Hertel, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, noted that they pandemic has played a major part in the well-being of many Michiganders.

“The pandemic has highlighted the critical role mental health plays in our overall well-being,” she said. “Recognizing May as Mental Health Awareness Month serves as a reminder to honor our minds as we work to fight this pandemic. And of course, we also want to honor the countless professionals across the state who work tirelessly to help individuals with mental illness get the support they need.”

The state said that reports of increased stress-related conditions are high across the U.S., with individuals still feeling the strain of the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Census Bureau found in a March survey that more than 30% of Michigan residents reported symptoms of anxiety or depression during the seven days prior to being surveyed. The survey was conducted March 3 to March 15.

Michigan’s self-reported symptom numbers have fluctuated between 30% and 49% since December.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said that the negative psychological impacts of a disaster can last for months or years, and can contribute to mental illness if left untreated.

The MDHHS is doing its part to focus its attention on mental health as part of public health. An initial report was recently released by the Michigan Suicide Prevention Commission with recommendations on how to reduce the suicide rate, including increasing and expanding access to care for at-risk Michiganders. The full 93-page report can be viewed at https://www.michigan.gov/documents/coronavirus/Suicide_Prevention_Commission_Initial_Report_Final_Draft_719896_7.pdf.

In a partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Administration and SAMHSA, MDHHS has developed the Stay Well program, which offers Michiganders emotional support through the Stay Well counseling line 24 hours per day, seven days per week. The program’s website can be accessed at Michigan.gov/StayWell, and offers links to a variety of mental health resources, including crisis help lines, virtual support groups, guidance documents, videos, recorded webinars and more.

If you’re battling mental health, you can call the Stay Well counseling line at 888-535-6136 and then press “8.”

According to statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 20.6% of U.S. adults experienced mental illness in 2019, equating to 51.5 million people, or 1 in 5 adults. Approximately 5.2% of U.S. adults, or 13.1 million people, experienced serious mental illness that same year.

Sixteen and a half percent of U.S. youth aged 6-16 experienced a mental health disorder in 2016, equating to 7.7 million youth.

NAMI’s Alger/Marquette chapter is doing its part to offer assistance to those who need it within the community, with two Zoom support groups taking place this month. The first occurred yesterday, and the next is scheduled for Thursday, May 20 at 7 p.m.

The support groups are free and confidential, tailored to individuals living with mental illness along with friends or families living with an individual with mental illness.

To request a Zoom invitation, email ckbertucci58@charter.net. Invitations are available to the first 10 people who respond.

For more information on the state of Michigan’s mental health initiatives and for resources, visit www.Michigan.gov /StayWell.

For more information on NAMI and its Alger/Marquette chapter, visit www.nami.org or www.namimqt.com.

If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts and are seeking help, call the National Suicide Prevention LIfeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Ryan Spitza can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. His email address is rspitza@miningjournal.net.


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