Everyone at some point in life will face a mental or behavioral health issue, whether through personal experience or through knowing someone who is struggling. So why does mental and behavioral health continue to be a topic no one wants to discuss? Shame and stigma only compound the issue. What change will come from ignoring a growing crisis?
Understanding the facts is crucial to making effective change. In Hall County, the suicide rate is 13.1 per 100,000 compared to the state benchmark of 11.9 (National Vital Statistics System). According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five youth between the ages of 13 and 18 will experience mental illness at some point. Adding to this crisis, the population to mental health provider ratio in Hall County is 1350:1 compared to 330:1 for top U.S. Performers (County Health Rankings, 2018). The indicators are clear- we need to start the conversation to ensure that we create change.
Here at United Way of Hall County we envision a future where behavioral health needs are recognized and treated. We seek to increase the knowledge of and access to behavioral health services—no matter your socioeconomic status. Through our One Hall Health collaboration we are working to destigmatize and support those facing mental and behavioral health struggles. The purpose of the One Hall initiative is to break the cycle of poverty in Hall County by seeking to understand poverty from the perspective of our most vulnerable citizens. We know we must work side-by-side with local churches and public, private and non-profit sectors to tackle the root causes of poverty in a holistic and sustainable manner. Convening each month in three different arenas—Health, Financial Stability, and Education—we noticed mental and behavioral health continuously becoming a focal point of our conversations.
The effects of mental and behavioral health run deeper than just physical health. Left untreated, a person may experience a decline in quality of life, educational struggles, lowered productivity and poverty, social isolation, vulnerability to abuse, and additional health problems. Each of these effects plays a large role in the cycle of poverty. If a mother is struggling with postpartum depression and misses a few days of work, it causes a loss of income. This loss of income could ultimately lead her to have to choose between feeding her children and paying her rent—causing further stressors on her. Without appropriate support, this downward spiral can take place quickly and be difficult to overcome.
The individual is not the only person who feels the effects of mental and behavioral health struggles. Families and caregivers often also feel chronic stress due to a person’s mental and behavioral health. Many times, they do not realize that there is support for the entire family unit. Additionally, the community as a whole feels the effects when individuals do not receive the appropriate care they need and deserve.
Understanding how mental and behavioral health is truly a community effort helps us know where to start. It is imperative that we help raise awareness around the supports that are available for people experiencing mental and behavioral health symptoms. Help is available. Reach out.