Mental illness is normal in our society, and it’s also normal to have a life of recovery

Today (May 11, 2017) the Idaho Division of Behavioral Health hosted an event recognizing Mental Health Awareness month and several Idahoans who are working to support recovery and end the stigma about mental illness. So, let’s talk about the reality of mental health. 

Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little presented the 2017 Mental Health Awareness month proclamation at a public event in the Idaho Statehouse May 11, 2017.

Millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental health condition, which is challenging enough. Add to that the stigma associated with mental illness, and it can cause people to avoid help and treatment. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so it’s a great time to talk about it and help put an end to the stigma about mental health issues.

How many people really are dealing with a mental illness?

Generally, 1 in 5 adults and children have a diagnosable mental illness. That makes mental illness more common than cancer, diabetes, or even heart disease, and yet we hear much more about those diseases than we do about mental health. That’s why this month is so important. About half of the adults in the U.S. will develop a mental illness at some point in their lives. Mental illness is normal in our society. It’s also normal to live a life of recovery.

How do you know if someone needs help? What should we look for?

Boise teen Eric Walton, chairman of Youth MOVE (Motivating Others through Voices of Experience) has used his own experiences to help reduce stigma and provide support to youth with mental illness.

Symptoms for children and adults can vary, but they can include changes in behavior, feeling sad or depressed for a long time, drug or alcohol abuse, changes in eating or sleeping habits, suicidal thoughts, and excessive anger, hostility, or violence. Mental health conditions often appear for the first time during adolescence, but it can happen at any time in a person’s life.

What are the things that increase a person’s risk for developing a mental illness?

Like other health conditions, your risk is higher if a sibling or parent has a mental illness. Other risk factors include brain damage because of an injury, traumatic experiences, using illegal drugs, being abused or neglected as a child, and even another chronic medical condition, such as cancer.

If you need help, or you know someone who needs help, where do you start to get that help?

If a person is having suicidal thoughts, please call the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Otherwise, you can talk to your doctor, and you can call the Idaho CareLine by dialing 211 and our agents will help you find resources.

Does treatment help?

Voice of Idaho award winner Lisa Koller of Idaho Falls has turned potential tragedy into promising recovery for many Idaho residents.

Treatment can help most people significantly reduce their symptoms and improve their quality of life. More than two-thirds of Americans who are living with a mental illness are also leading productive lives because of their care and treatment. People can and do recover all the time. The Division of Behavioral  Health celebrated recovery May 11 in the Lincoln Auditorium at the Idaho Statehouse with Lt. Gov. Brad Little presenting the 2017 Mental Health Awareness Month proclamation, and several other speakers talking about their challenges and successes with mental health. The first-ever Voice of Idaho Award also was presented by Behavioral Health Administrator Ross Edmunds to Lisa Koller (you can read more of her story here)


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