BRANDS: Week focuses on mental illness awareness

Guest commentary

Jere Brands

Jere Brands

Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) is this week.

This is an important opportunity to learn more about mental illnesses such as major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. It’s an opportunity to make a difference.

Mental illness does not discriminate. It can strike anyone at any time.

Fortunately, recovery is possible. Treatment works, but only if a person can get it. Most mental illness begins by age 24. Unfortunately, there are long delays — sometimes decades — between the first appearance of symptoms and when a person gets help.

Mental illnesses are medical illnesses. They affect all communities. One in four adults experiences a mental disorder in any given year. One in 17 adults lives with serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder.

Everyone needs to understand the nature of mental illness and learn the symptoms of different conditions. Fact sheets about specific diagnoses and treatment options are available from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) at www.nami.org. Please browse them and share or mention them to family and friends.

Our local law enforcement officers and emergency responders are being trained as Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT). Trainings (40 hours) are made available twice a year through the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Department. A CIT officer knows how to de-escalate a crisis situation and avoid tragedy. Tonight at 6:30, a panel of CIT officers will be discussing their training and answering questions. The meeting is open to the public, and the location is Phoebe Northwest on the Dawson Road in Albany.

Know where to find help for yourself or others in case it’s ever needed. Most people start with their primary care doctor. Many may start by confiding in a close family member or friend. When they do, it’s important to take their concerns seriously.

In Georgia, we can reach help with one telephone call to the Georgia Crisis and Access Line, 1 (800) 715-4225. Anyone can make a confidential call to find a doctor or to access treatment in crisis. Mobile crisis units are now available in our communities.

Wednesday is National Depression Screening Day. Quick online depression screening is easily available at www.mentalhealthscreening.org/events.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1 (800) 723-8255.

Don’t be afraid to speak up or reach out. The U.S. Surgeon General has reported that stigma is a major barrier to people seeking help when they need it. That’s why MIAW is observed. The more people know, the better they can help for themselves or their loved ones.

Treatment works — and saves lives.

Learn more about mental illness and support, education and advocacy to improve the lives of individuals affected by serious mental illnesses at www.nami.org. Please join the public dialogue during Mental Illness Awareness Week.

Jere Brands of Albany is with the Albany chapter of NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness.