Making It Easier To Talk About Mental Health

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With data suggesting that one in five Illinois residents is experiencing a mental health challenge at any one time, a new public education campaign was launched today to promote good mental health and to empower those living with a mental health issue to Say it out loud. The campaign seeks to promote good mental health for every child and adult in Illinois, lower the barriers that prevent people from either seeking or offering help and support, and build a larger and stronger base of community support for an effective network of treatment services and programs.

The new statewide public education and engagement campaign is jointly sponsored by the State of Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health, and the Illinois Children's Mental Health Partnership, a network of more than 30 organizations across the state. While other campaigns have used emotional appeals and dramatic imagery to draw attention to the issue of mental health, Say it out loud reflects a strength-based approach that presents mental health as a critical component of overall health and well-being.

The campaign was unveiled today at a rally on Chicago's Navy Pier as the state began its annual observance of Mental Health Awareness Month, which Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich has proclaimed as Say it out loud Month for May 2008. Scores of mental health advocates joined those who are living today with mental health challenges at the rally, with many wearing the campaign's signature yellow T-shirt emblazoned with Say it out loud in blue.

"In today's stressful world, everything we do to promote good mental health in ourselves and the people we care about contributes to more healthy, balanced, productive, happy lives," said Lorrie Rickman Jones, Ph.D., Director of Mental Health for the Illinois Department of Human Services. "And help is available for those who need it. But, too often we're reluctant to ask the right questions, or to express our concern or support. This campaign is about helping people find an easier way to talk about this critical component of our total health."

According to Rickman Jones, while 70-90 percent of mental health diagnoses are treatable, data shows that fewer than half of the people who experience these mental health challenges actually seek treatment.

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"There are so many things we can do to promote good mental health in our children, starting when they are infants, to encourage and support their social and emotional development," said Barbara Shaw, Director of the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority and Chair of the Illinois Children's Mental Health Partnership. "This campaign urges parents and caregivers to initiate conversations about their child's social and emotional development with people they trust, such as their pediatrician, and to ask for help when they need it."

The campaign describes five steps that every Illinois resident can take to help promote good mental health for themselves and the people they care about:

-- Talk with someone who seems stressed or down. Let them know you care.

-- Ask for help from someone you trust if you think you or your child might need it.

-- Speak with your child's doctor or teachers about how to encourage your child's social and emotional development.

-- Encourage policy leaders to make children's and adult mental health a top priority.

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