This is the month where we raise awareness about mental health issues in our country. Our own research teaches us that one in five Americans experience mental health issues each year. Those conditions include:
- Mood disorders, including bipolar disorder
- Personality disorders
- Psychotic disorders including schizophrenia
- Eating disorders
- Substance-use disorders
I would contend that most of these disorders have some connection to trauma in their childhood or past events that have left some emotional wounds. As we have experienced some of the consequences of COVID-19, the social problems, the fear-based world we live in and other related issues such as poverty, violence and related issues, these mental health issues have grown exponentially.
Those of us who work with youth have witnessed an astounding increase in mental health episodes that are serious and scary. Some of the behaviors that are characteristic of this kind of stress are:
- Not wanting to leave your side
- Threats of suicide
The most difficult part of this crisis is the lack of mental health therapeutic services. Our schools are overwhelmed due to the impact of this crisis and professionals like guidance counselors are expected to provide therapeutic services while handling the educational needs of hundreds of students. I just heard of a guidance counselor who had a caseload of 500 students while 15 of those students were on suicide watch. She was clear that she was burned out and ready to quit her job. This is not an unusual circumstance in our schools.
I think it is helpful to designate a month to bring awareness to this pressing issues. Also, it is so important to those struggling individuals to help them notice their own mental health needs and give them permission to get the help necessary for them to handle those needs.
In such a crisis we need to be more serious about creating a significant increase in funding, giving to more organizations and mental health professionals what is needed to assist individuals who have been identified with mental health disorders. If we are going to get ahead of this crisis, we will have to develop the resources to treat those who are struggling. To ignore that allows the crisis to grow and continue to overwhelm our systems of care, leaving a negative impact to the emotional and relational health of our families and communities. We need more than awareness! We need serious and immediate action steps to help those who have been impacted by mental health disorders.