PORTSMOUTH — May is Mental Health Month and Shawnee Family Health Center (SFHC) is acknowledging it with a client appreciation day Tuesday, May 17, from 11 a.m until 2 p.m. at its Washington Street location in Portsmouth. The theme is ‘Life with a Mental Illness.’
According to SFHC CEO Cynthia Holstein, it is a call to action to share what life with a mental illness feels like to someone that is going through it. The Center wanted to honor those who have sought out treatment for mental illness.
“It can be difficult to take that first step and walk into a mental health center and ask for help due to the ongoing, archaic stigma that surrounds brain diseases,” Holstein said. “We wanted to do something to honor those that have taken this step and show public support for their ongoing efforts.”
She said mental illness continues to be plagued by a stigma and is considered, “taboo.”
“Even though it is the year 2016, there is still such a stigma associated with receiving mental health services,” Holstein said. “Many people go untreated because of that stigma, and will not walk through the doors because they are afraid of being labeled as though having a mental illness is something bad, it is still taboo. It is an illness just like any other illness, and with proper treatment, people can lead a very fulfilling and symptom-free life.”
Many times people wait until their mental illness progresses to stage 4 – or to an emergency level. SFHC stresses the importance of taking action B4Stage4, because when a person addresses their mental health symptoms before Stage 4, they can often recover quickly and live full, productive lives. This year, during Mental Health Month, people are encouraged to give voice to what it really means to live at stages 1, 2, 3 and 4 of mental illness.
The theme, ‘Life with a Mental Illness’ is meant to help remove the shame and stigma of speaking out, so that more people can be comfortable coming out of the shadows and seeking the help they need. Additionally, SFHC is encouraging the public to tag their social media posts with #mentalillnessfeelslike. Posting with this hashtag is a way to speak up, to share one’s point of view with people who may be struggling to explain what they are going through.
“I think that this years theme, ‘Life with a Mental Illness’ is encouraging people to speak up, and say, ‘It’s okay, I have a mental illness,’” Holstein said. “There is nothing wrong with saying that and there is nothing wrong with seeking treatment for that. So we want to encourage people to seek treatment here or somewhere else. Perhaps with their pastor.”
Mental illnesses are common and they are treatable, and help is available. But it is important to seek help early – B4Stage4. Research shows that by ignoring symptoms, we lose ten years in which we could intervene in order to change people’s lives for the better. Speaking out about what mental illness feels like can encourage others to recognize symptoms early on in the disease process and empower others to be agents in their own recovery, according to SFHC.
Holstein said The Daily Times and other media outlets are helpful in compelling people to agencies for treatment.
“We have seen an increase of people coming in for services, so I think that when the media, like yourselves, talk about that it is okay to come in for services that people see that and they feel more comfortable coming in,” she said. “We are also seeing that with the advances and the medications that there is a greater improvement rate. We know that people with major depression that 80 percent of those who do seek treatment do find relief from depression.”
For more information regarding mental health services that SFHC provides, visit the SFHC website at: www.shawneemhc.org, or call 740-354-7702.