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EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first in a series of articles about mental health, managing disorders, treatment and local resources available for anyone with mental illness.

Local groups will join organizations throughout the country in May in a renewed effort to disseminate information about mental health and available resources to raise awareness and remove lingering stigmas attached to mental illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define mental health as "a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community." According to the CDC, only about 17 percent of U.S. adults are considered to be in a state of optimal mental health and more evidence suggests positive mental health is associated with improved health outcomes.

Organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health America and their affiliates have led the observance of May as Mental Health Awareness Month since 1949 through various awareness events and outreach programs. Robert Gershon, CEO of Ouachita Behavioral Health and Wellness, said he plans to deliver presentations to a number of local groups throughout May.

"Anything that highlights such a common problem so many people have is a good thing," Gershon said. "The best thing we can do in the field and for the public is get information out there. Information is power and once people have information, I think it really changes not only how they view mental illness, but, more importantly for a lot of people, it normalizes their experiences for them.

"It makes it more likely they or a loved one will refer or seek help, which is the most important thing we can do during Mental Health Awareness Month."

NAMI estimates at least one in five Americans will be affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime and every American is affected through their friends or family. Anyone can join the discussion and help raise awareness online with the hashtag #IntoMentalHealth.

Karla Gentry, a licensed professional counselor, said Mental Health Awareness Month helps decrease stigmas tied to mental illnesses. Gentry attended graduate school at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia for counseling, trained with the American Red Cross as a mental health volunteer and serves as an emergency room suicide assessor, among many other roles.

"It can make people more aware that even though a person looks fine on the inside, there could be personal turmoil on the inside," Gentry said. "I mean things like depression, anxiety, PTSD and even dissociation."

The CDC defines mental illness as "collectively all diagnosable mental disorders" or "health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning." According to the CDC, evidence has shown mental disorders are strongly related to the occurrence and successful treatment of many chronic diseases and risk behaviors for chronic disease.

More emphasis and resources have been devoted to the screening, diagnosis and treatment of mental illness than mental health. The CDC said little has been done to protect the mental health of those without mental illness. Researchers suggest the three main domains of mental health indicators are emotional, psychological and social well-being.

Emotional well-being factors in perceived life satisfaction, happiness, cheerfulness and peacefulness. Factors for psychological well-being include self-acceptance, personal growth and openness to new experiences, optimism, purpose in life, control of one's environment, spirituality, self-direction and positive relationships. Social well-being includes social acceptance, personal self-worth and usefulness to society, beliefs in the potential of people and society as a whole, and a sense of community.

Lenora Erickson, clinical director for Therapeutic Family Services, said mental health staff will post articles about mental health issues each day of the month on their website at http://www.therapeuticfamilyservices.com. Erickson is also the chairwoman for the Arkansas Board of Examiners in Counseling and the Suicide Prevention Allies youth committee.

"It helps negate the stigma associated with mental illness and encourages those who might be struggling to seek help," Erickson said.

National Park College has partnered with SPA and CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs to host the "Just A Minute: PSA Showcase" Saturday from 1-4 p.m. in the Frederick M. Dierks Center for Nursing and Health Sciences. The event is free and open to the public. Area organizations will be on-site to discuss resources and tools available for those struggling with mental health issues.

Public service announcement videos produced by students in local schools will be showcased. Participants were tasked with tackling the issues of bullying, suicide prevention or peer building.

The keynote speaker will be Josh Rivedal, author and founder of the The I'Mpossible Project. Rivedal will present his program, "Changing Minds: A Toolkit for Your Mental Health."

The presentation is sponsored by the Matthew Silverman Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit public charity dedicated to raising awareness with the goals of preventing suicide and saving lives. The organization provides financial and programmatic support, as well as mental health programs, for teens and young adults throughout the country.

Local on 04/30/2017

Print Headline: Mental health: Part one Local groups work together to raise awareness

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