May is Mental Health Month and an opportunity to openly address mental health issues and stigmas, gather resources, support those struggling with mental health challenges and recognize the important role of caregivers.
The majority of individuals experiencing mental health symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and other mental illnesses, struggle in silence. They often feel isolated and alone.
But, mental health disorders are more common than many realize. Nearly one in five individuals is affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime. Additionally, many, many others are at risk of developing a condition or have been affected and impacted through friends, family and co-workers.
Often, symptoms and treatment of mental health issues are dismissed, untreated and stigmatized. An estimated two-thirds of individuals with a diagnosable mental illness do not get treatment, especially those from communities that may not be open to accessing mental health services.
In many cases, individuals living with a mental illness do not seek help due to lack of knowledge, fear of disclosure, rejection by friends and family and discrimination. Other barriers include dismissing warning signs and symptoms, the stigma associated with seeking treatment, cost of treatment and mistrust of mental health services. But, without treatment, mental health disorders may worsen and increase the difficulty of treating symptoms effectively.
Here are a few organizations that can provide support:
- Mental Health America is a community-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and educating wellness by living mentally healthier lives. Mental health is a critical part of overall wellness, including prevention for all, early identification and intervention for those at risk, integrated health, behavioral health and other services for those who need them and recovery as a goal. The organization’s current campaign is #mentalillnessfeelslike, and it encourages sharing individual stories of what it is like to live with a mental health diagnosis. Mental Health America of Hawaii operates the 24-hour Crisis Line of Hawaii, which helps anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts and crisis. If you are experiencing distress, call (800) 832-3100 (Oahu) or (800) 753-6879 (Neighbor Islands) for assistance.
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a grassroots mental health association created and supported by local affiliates, state organizations and volunteers who work in the community to raise awareness and provide support and education about those affected by mental illness. The local chapter, NAMI Hawaii, offers educational programs and real-life recovery evidence for individuals and families living with mental illness and the general public.
- The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a resource that is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week for those in crisis or thinking of suicide. The Lifeline’s toll-free number, (800) 273-TALK (8255), can connect individuals to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center near you.
- For general help, Aloha United Way provides assistance through its 2-1-1 Referral Line and can link you with services throughout Hawaii.
If you know someone in need of help, share this information or call for services. Individuals who have been diagnosed with severe mental illness can inquire about case management services by calling their insurance company. If individuals do not have insurance, they can call the State of Hawaii’s Adult Mental Health Division Eligibility Line at (808) 643-2643 to receive a referral for services.
The reason Mental Health Month is so important is because it sheds a light on a topic that has historically been kept in the dark. People are beginning to understand that mental health is a continuum and that there are many resources to help individuals struggling with mental illnesses as well as their supporting friends and family. As more people become informed about mental health issues, we can begin to combat the stigma surrounding it and help more people in need of additional services and support.