Lake County officials recognize May as 'Mental Health Awareness Month'

·4 min read

May 20—The Lake County commissioners recently adopted a special resolution proclaiming May "Mental Health Awareness Month," with an elevated focus.

During Mental Health Awareness Month, which was started nationally in 1949, Mental Health America is working to promote "Look Around, Look Within," an initiative that considers every part of one's environment and its effect on collective mental health and well-being.

From neighborhood to genetics, many factors come into play when it comes to mental health conditions.

According to the community-based nonprofit, headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, where a person is born, lives, learns, works, plays, and gathers, as well as their economic stability and social connections, are part of what is called "social determinants of health."

The more these factors work in one's favor means the person is more likely to have better mental well-being. Conversely, when it seems like the world is working against a person, mental health can suffer.

While many parts of an environment can be out of one's control, officials noted there are steps one can take to change space and protect overall well-being.

"In the United States, every year, one in five adults experiences mental illness and yet less than half of those individuals get help," said Kim Fraser, executive director of the Lake County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board.

"Here, in Lake County, every single month, over 300 of our friends, neighbors and loved ones find themselves in our emergency department in psychiatric crisis," she added. "We know that mental illness is treatable — it is as treatable as diabetes and heart disease, and like those diseases, early intervention is having these conversations, being open and honest, and stamping out stigma, is vital."

To help in promoting the unmasking of mental health concerns, the ADAMHS Board, in addition to state and national bodies, noted individuals and families can:

—Work toward securing safe and stable housing — challenging due to finances, age, and other reasons, officials added, but there are a few things....such as reaching out to local, integrated-services groups and contract agencies, like Extended Housing, Inc. and Lifeline, Inc. to obtain a partial rental subsidy or finding another space, such as a community center or friend's home, until living independently becomes a possibility

—Focus on your home — consider keeping a tidy, sleep-friendly, and well-ventilated space while surrounding it with items that help make the atmosphere calm and positive

—Create bonds with neighborhood and community — become acquainted, join or start neighbors-helping-neighbors groups, and check out local community centers and events

—Connect with nature — Walk or hike in a forest or Lake Metroparks property, sit in one of the many city parks, bring a plant inside, or keep the shades open to absorb natural light

If steps to improve surroundings are taken but struggling persists, an individual may be experiencing signs of a mental health condition, Fraser noted.

"We encourage anyone with questions to contact our strong local system of support, the Compass Line, which assists individuals in sorting through feelings and symptoms, explores options, and connects quickly with local resources," she said.

The free and anonymous Compass Line (440-350-2000) is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"A call to that number helps any individual's journey toward wellness," Fraser added. "We know through our network of care, we are able to positively impact over 60,000 lives every single year, so the more we can dialogue and raise awareness, the better able we are to help people, which is available to anyone who wants it."

According to the World Health Organization, people with severe mental health disorders have a 10-to-25-year reduction in life expectancy.

"Ignoring the symptoms of mental health disorders can cause further problems," said Lake County Commissioner John Hamercheck. "Prevention, early identification and intervention are important steps in the healing process.

Commissioner John Plecnik added that Lake County's nonprofits address myriad issues to combat conditions regarding mental health and overall well-being.

"It's important that we as a community acknowledge that everybody sometimes needs a little bit of help and that we have the resources available," he said.

With varying points regarding "the end" of the pandemic still prevalent, Commissioner Richard Regovich noted the spotlight on mental health, nevertheless, remains essential.

"Speaking out can familiarize others on how to recognize symptoms in order to empower individuals to be agents in their own recovery, especially with what we've all been through in the last few years," he said. Now, more than ever, mental health concerns have touched more people and it's not something to keep in the closet."

For more information on Mental Health Awareness Month, visit