By Debra B. Johnson, Executive Director, St. Clair County Community Mental Health
Since 1948, May has been recognized as National Mental Health Awareness Month. It is an opportunity to have meaningful conversations regarding mental health, to learn about integrated health, which is how the mind and body interact with each other, to become educated about the positive steps we can take to protect mental health, and to change our own and others negative attitudes, stigma, and discrimination towards individuals with mental illness.
Approximately one in five adults in America experience a mental health condition each year, but only 41% receive treatment. In addition, one in seventeen Americans lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, while in Michigan someone in every seven families has a mental illness. While most people with a physical illness seek treatment, many people with serious mental illness delay or never seek treatment. This is because even though we know more know about the origins and causes of mental illness than ever before, stigma based on false beliefs that people with mental illness are “scary” or “violent” persist.
To ensure everyone with a mental illness receives treatment people must feel that they can talk openly about their mental health, in the same way we talk about physical health, without fear of negative consequences. When a person is diagnosed with cancer they receive sympathy and goodwill. In contrast, a diagnosis of a mental illness is often met with discomfort and judgment. This can lead people to avoid treatment for a mental health condition until there is a crisis. We must remember that just as someone
does not choose to have a physical illness neither do they choose to have a mental illness.
It is important to understand that people with mental illness can and do recover. Recovery is the long-term process of gaining control over one’s life and the direction that one wants that life to go. Often this includes creating a life as rich and complete as anyone else’s, with a partner, family, job, home, and place in the community despite the limitations caused by the illness. Being in recovery is a process of creating positive attitudes, values, feelings, goals, and skills in order to live the best life possible.
Every year, St. Clair County Community Mental Health (SCCCMH) celebrates Mental Health Awareness Month with several events. The first is our annual Awards Recognition Banquet on May 7th at Alexander’s Banquet Hall, in Marysville. Among those who will be recognized are the winners of our creative arts contests, which focus on de-stigmatizing mental illness. This includes Bailey Haslem of Marine City Middle School, who won the Grand Prize in our middle school writing contest, and Madison Cook of St. Clair High School, who won Best in Show in our high school art contest.
We will also recognize Community Service Award winner Jason Stier, Principal of Riverview East High School, Organization Award Winner the Community Foundation of St. Clair, Media Award winners Karly Hurley and Mallory Michaluk of EBW-TV, our Employee of the Year Tony Fioravanti, our Team of the Year, the Power of Peer Supports team, our Rights Champion of the Year Latina Cates, and our Rights Team Champion of the Year, the Residential Services Response team. We will also recognize people and agencies who donated time and money to our organization in 2018.
We will also once again participate in the Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Board’s 15th annual Walk-A-Mile rally in Lansing on Thursday, May 9 th, to educate the public and legislators about mental health and to combat misconceptions and hurtful stereotypes.
On Saturday, May 11 th, we will hold our 11th annual Run for Recovery timed 5K run, timed 1 mile run for ages 12 and under, and 1 mile “fun” walk at our administration building located at 3111 Electric Avenue in Port Huron. The Run for Recovery highlights the importance of good physical health and how physical and mental health is related. There are 17 age divisions for male and female athletes. Same day registration is available on May 11 th from 7:30-8:30 am. For more details, please go to our website at www.scccmh.org.
And finally, we are celebrating the week of May 6-12, which is National Nurses Week. Nurses in both behavioral and physical health organizations play a vital role in integrated healthcare, as they have the important task of working with people who have both behavioral and physical health conditions, which each play a part in a person’s overall wellness.
Throughout the year we will continue to advocate for individuals in recovery and the public mental health system that supports their efforts. Please join us as we work toward an inclusive, person-centered system. Mental health must receive the same priority as physical health!