Terry Stevens

There’s been no shortage of news stories recently regarding health care. While there is debate about health care reform, there can be no debate that mental health is an important part of your overall health. That’s why May is designated as Mental Health Month.

The theme this year is “Mind Your Health.” The focus is making you more aware about the important role mental health plays in your overall wellness.

Chances are you know someone who is affected by mental illness. National Institutes of Health statistics show that one in four adults, or more than 61 million Americans, experience mental illness in a given year. One in 17, or more than 13 million Americans, live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder.

Mental health can take a toll both physically and financially. Poor mental health has a negative impact on a person’s overall health, and serious mental illness results in more than $190 billion a year in lost earnings in the United States.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that about half of adults and nearly half of youth ages 8 to 15 with a mental illness did not receive mental health services last year. The number receiving services shrinks even more in minority communities. Much of that is because people are not talking about their mental illness and are not seeking help. The stigma around mental illness is so strong that it prevents people from seeking help and asking questions. It is time for us to break the silence and stop the stigma — and Mental Health Month is a great time to start the discussion. Mental illness is like any other disease. It is treatable and recovery is possible. Remember when no one would say the word “Cancer?” Now there are walks and fundraisers around every kind of cancer. Athletes are wearing pink in recognition of breast cancer. We need to get information about mental illness out in the open and allow people to feel comfortable to ask questions and ask for help.

It’s important to know there are effective treatments available for mental illness. The key is making sure those who need treatment receive the care they deserve. As a regional behavioral health authority in Arizona, Cenpatico is working to increase the availability of quality care and provide innovative mental health solutions. Helpful information can be found at www.cenpaticoaz.com. You can also help to Stamp Out Stigma, www.stampoutstigma.com. Each one of us can make a difference and maybe save a life by getting a person the help and treatment they need.

The Arizona Department of Health Services Division of Behavioral Health website (http://www.azdhs.gov/bhs/) is another valuable resource to learn more about mental illness and treatment options available where you live.

Anyone having a mental health crisis can call our 24/7 hotline, (866) 495-6735. We will get you the help you need to stabilize the crisis regardless of your insurance coverage or if you have no coverage.

Make a difference during Mental Health Month and help improve the lives of others by learning more about mental health and the many available treatment options. Please start the discussion with people you know.

• Terry Stevens is chief executive officer of Cenpatico of Arizona.

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