2018-05-16 / Editorial

Never lose hope to treat mental illness

Getting a diagnosis for depression — or any mental illness — is no easy task, but getting validation and treatment can be a great relief.

Mental illnesses are disorders that affect a person’s mood, thoughts or behaviors. Serious mental illnesses include a variety of diseases including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and major depressive disorder. Although they can be scary, it is important to remember that these disorders are treatable. Individuals diagnosed with these diseases can live full, rewarding lives, especially if they seek treatment as needed.

The hard part for many people is telling family, friends, and other loved ones about the diagnosis, given the prevalence of stigma and ignorance in regards to mental illness.

On the other hand, finally obtaining a diagnosis and treatment plan can sometimes help relieve stress in the family and start moving recovery forward. Family members can be an invaluable resource for individuals dealing with serious mental illnesses.

During May — which is Mental Health Awareness Month — The County Press joins Lapeer County Community Mental Health (CMH) and other local healthcare providers in raising awareness of mental health (see column by Nicholas Pugliese on page 1B).

Each day CMH fights stigma, provides support, educates the public and advocates for policies that support people with mental illness and their families.

One in five Americans is affected by mental health conditions. Stigma is toxic to their mental health because it creates an environment of shame, fear and silence that prevents many people from seeking help and treatment. The perception of mental illness won’t change unless we act to change it, and it starts with a better understanding of the prevalence of mental illness. It affects thousands of people in Lapeer County every day, from minor anxiety to thoughts of suicide.

Mood disorders, including major depression, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults aged 18 to 44. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., the third leading cause of death for people aged 10 to 14 and the second leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 24.

More than 90 percent of children who die by suicide have a mental health condition, according to NAMI. Each day an estimated 18-22 veterans tragically die by suicide.

In Lapeer County there is help and hope for persons living with mental illness. CMH provides a wide range of professional mental health and related services for all residents, as well as for institutions and agencies serving our communities including the Veterans Affairs office. Emergency and short-term counseling services are also offered.

Mental illness is as real as physical illness, and deserves the same sympathy and treatment. Your primary care doctor is also a good person to talk to if you think you may need to see somebody about your mental health, and can usually give you the name of a psychologist or psychiatrist to contact.

CMH and the Lapeer County Community Collaborative have established a Suicide Prevention Network. The message is that help is available for people who feel hopeless.

If you feel your loved one is in danger of harming himself or herself, or harming someone else, that’s an emergency. Don’t hesitate to call 911.

Lapeer County residents may call CMH at 810-667- 0500 anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Walk-in help is available Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at its main office at 1570 Suncrest Drive in Mayfield Township.

Mental illness is a difficult journey for everyone involved, but treatment — and support from friends, family and community — can go a long way to helping people recover, manage their conditions, and lead happy, healthy lives. It’s important to stay positive. The most important things we can do to support a loved one with mental illness is to show compassion and help them navigate the path to diagnosis and treatment — and thus provide hope to those who feel lost and alone.

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