Comstock's magazine 1118 - November 2018 - Page 15

LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER n MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS PHOTO: ELEAKIS & ELDER PHOTOGRAPHY "H ello. How are you today?” It’s a common greeting, The first step to addressing this problem is our often delivered and responded to w ithout much w illingness to talk about it. Bringing it out in the open thought. I suspect the answer you hear most often removes the stigma many people associate w ith mental is “I’m just fine, thanks.” And most of us are fine, most of illness. As w ith any illness, early inter vention is key. We the time. need to recognize that many people who struggle w ith We can see w ith our ow n eyes when someone is suf- mental illness don’t realize that they do, creating another fering from a bad cold or physical pain, but what about barrier to treatment. people who are suffering from pain we can’t see? They A more open conversation on the subject w ill better aren’t really fine and they are often afraid to say so. equip all of us to recognize danger signs for people in For years, businesses have recognized that healthy need of help. The Sacramento Librar y system offers staff employees benefit the bottom line. They sponsor pro- "Mental Health First Aid" training, which teaches how to grams to help employees stop smoking, lose weight or recognize signs of mental illness among people using the get preventive check-ups. Healthy employees are more librar y, how to listen to them w ithout judgment and to productive, take less time off and, in some cases, reduce guide them to counselors and professionals who could insurance costs. But it requires a sensitive strateg y, em- help. Local restaurateur Patrick Mulvaney is working ployers getting involved in their workers’ mental health. w ith local stakeholders to offer similar training to food In an effort to prov ide some clarit y around the issue, a ser v ice workers. (You can learn more about the shortage new law effective in Januar y authorizes the State of Cali- of mental health professionals in this month’s cover stor y, fornia to set guidelines for businesses to use in promoting “Good Help is Hard to Find” by Russell Nichols, page 46.) voluntar y discussion about mental health. Another new law championed by the Steinberg Insti- But perhaps the most dire consequences of our com- tute, a nonprofit launched by Sacramento Mayor Darrell munity’s mental illness problem are found on our urban Steinberg to encourage leadership in addressing mental streets. The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates illness, w ill require people training to become family that 46 percent of homeless adults suffer from serious counselors or educational psychologists to take a 6-hour mental health disorders, and that any where from 15-30 course in suicide risk and inter vention. Not all people percent of individuals booked into jail suffer from mental w ith mental health problems w ill take their lives, but sui- illness. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that over cide is on the rise. We lose more than 40,000 people a year half of inmates struggle with at least one mental health nationw ide to suicide, more than double the number lost problem — and the U.S. is home to the highest percent- to homicide. A disproportionate number of those are pre- age of incarcerated people in the world. The Centers for teen and teenaged youngsters. Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1 in 4 adults If our goal is first to destigmatize mental illness, we suffers from some form of mental illness and half of adults should expect to see higher rates as those who would will experience it at some point during their lives. have suffered in silence emerge from the shadows. The The rate of mental illness is seemingly grow ing by number of calls to the national helpline for suicide pre- leaps and bounds. It’s a complex and multifaceted issue, vention (800-273-8255) has doubled since 2013. It may and each indiv idual’s situation is different. It could start surely be a sign that there are more people in need of help w ith our env ironment, poor eating and health habits, — but hopefully, also that more are w illing to reach out and what we now know as the routine stresses of life — and ask for it. the ever-shrinking middle-class, the lack of affordable housing, higher rates of debt and underemployment among young people, the rising costs of healthcare, and so much more. A dearth of mental health professionals and issues of access, particularly in rural areas, compound Winnie Comstock-Carlson the problem. President & Publisher November 2018 | comstocksmag.com 15