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Mental Illness Awareness : Supporting recovery in our community
Mental health disorders are a serious issue in the United States: the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that one in four adults – more than 57 million Americans – experience a mental health disorder in a given year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in Washington State 7.7 percent of adults reported feeling symptoms of depression in the past year and 4.7 percent reported having thoughts of suicide. With so many people impacted by mental health challenges, it’s vitally important to educate our community about prevention, treatment, and recovery support resources available locally.
To help address this issue, each October the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) sponsors Mental Illness Awareness Week. The goal of this observance is to promote the message that, with the right help and support, people can and do recover from mental health challenges to live healthy, self-directed lives as valuable members of their community.
Since it began overseeing Pierce County’s mental health services in 2009, the Optum Pierce Regional Support Network (RSN) has worked with a variety of community partners to create or enhance innovative programs focused on helping people recover from mental health challenges.
For example, the Recovery Response Center was established in 2010 to provide a safe and welcoming place for people to recover from a mental health crisis and to help ease the strain on over-burdened hospitals and jails that aren't designed to handle mental health emergencies. Since the Center opened, the County has seen its rate of unnecessary mental health-related hospitalizations drop by almost a third.
Optum also helped establish the Community Re-Entry program to help reduce the time people with mental health issues spend in jail by redirecting them from the criminal justice system to appropriate community-based treatment and supports. The program also helps reduce and prevent future run-ins with law enforcement by helping these individuals get assistance once released, including help finding housing, assistance with applying for benefits, and family and child care services.
One of Optum Pierce RSN’s newest recovery-centered programs, Community Building, offers support from peers and professionals to help individuals in a residential treatment setting obtain and remain in housing of their choice.
Having worked in the behavioral health field for 13 years, I have seen firsthand that mental health challenges do not discriminate – they affect people from all walks of life regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic level. But I have also personally seen the benefits of recovery-oriented programs and services that help people achieve improved mental and physical health, stronger relationships and a sense of self-worth. The most important thing to remember is that help is available and, with the right support, people can and do recover to live full lives in the community.