May is National Mental Health Month in U.S.

Since 1949, May has been officially recognized as National Mental Health Month. Like Art Appreciation month (August) and National Honey Month (September), officially recognized months often come and go with little fanfare. In fact I must admit I, as the executive director of UnityPoint Health – Berryhill Center, did not realize that this year marked the 65th anniversary of National Mental Health Month until I sat down to write this column.

We, at UnityPoint Health, believe that effective health care must be provided in a holistic manor that incorporates the physical, emotional, and environmental dimensions of each patient. While Berryhill is the local mental health provider of UnityPoint, we seek to coordinate the care we provide with the health care team of your choosing which may include your family doctor or other specialists.

Yet, it is important to remember that mental health affects everyone from those who experience severe hallucinations to those who deal with mild anxiety. While our experiences differ; we are all impacted. The most important variable is how we respond to these challenges.

Like an insidious mold, mental health symptoms thrive in darkness. Healing comes with revealing our hurts, fears, and regrets. Individuals crushed by mental health challenges are often isolated and alone. Those who thrive under similar circumstances have found friends, pastors, counselors, doctors or other mental health professionals to lock arms with and navigate these challenges together.

While we all are impacted by mental health we must be vigilant in combating the epidemic of suicide in our culture. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suicide was the 10th leading cause of death for Americans in 2010 killing an American every 13.7 minutes. This has been on the rise since 2000. Statistics show that men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women and individuals between the ages of 45 to 64 years old have the highest rate of suicide followed by individuals who are 85 years of age or older. For the sake of yourself and your loved ones please do not ignore this problem.

Everyone deals with mental health to a varying degree; so how do you know if you need professional help? Please seek professional help if you or a loved one:

Has thoughts of suicide.

Has cut, bruised, or harmed yourself or are having thoughts of cutting bruising or harming yourself.

Has thoughts about harming others.

Has mental health symptoms that are interfering with family, work, or social life.

Has an addiction that is interfering with your family, work, or social life.

Is unable to get out of bed due to apathy or anxiety.

Is unable to sleep at night due to anxiety.

Have been encouraged you to seek mental health treatment.

UnityPoint Health – Berryhill Center is here to help. We offer crisis counseling 24 hours per day, seven days per week by phone. Please call (800) 482-8305. We also provide evaluations, counseling, and medication management services in our office. We also provide a variety of community-based services designed to coordinate and provide care to individuals in their homes. To schedule an appointment, please call (800) 482-8305. We are accepting new patients and have capacity to see most new patients within a day or two of an initial phone call. We accept all major insurances and have financial assistance programs available for those who qualify. Our commitment to our community is to provide the best outcomes to our patients at every service.

Aaron McHone is executive director of UnityPoint Health – Berryhill Center.