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Take care: Destigmatizing mental health issues through education, community events

Editor’s Note: In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, this is Part 1 of a month-long series centering around the many facets of mental health, from community, to crime, to survivor stories, and those left behind.

Everybody has mental health in the same way that everybody has physical health.

Like the common cold, it’s understandable that mental health issues may arise from time to time and can make anyone feel under the weather. In some cases, that metaphorical cold can be treated at home with rest, and in others, it requires a doctor’s attention.

But since a mental health emergency doesn’t look the same as a physical health emergency, some still dismiss mental health crises.

Although mental health and mental illness are often used interchangeably, they are not synonyms. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), mental illnesses “are conditions that affect a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, or behavior, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia,” while mental health is defined as “our emotional, psychological, and social well-being.”

Every May since 1949, Mental Health Awareness Month has worked toward destigmatizing mental health through community engagement and education.

Understanding and Preventing Suicide

Creswell Grange is hosting a free program called “Understanding and Preventing Suicide” on May 7 at 6 p.m. at 274 W. Oregon Ave. This program’s speakers will be: Rebecca Fitkin, Tessa Hart, and Trevor Whitbread. All speakers are mental health professionals who work with South Lane Mental Health in one way or another.

This is the Grange’s second year providing a program centering suicide.

“Every year there are suicides in Creswell. Obviously suicide’s a serious and very prevalent problem,” Martin McClure said.

He said the program was started because one Creswell youth died by suicide after jumping from the bridge into oncoming traffic on the I-5 and added that some Creswell Grange members had family members who were suicidal, which motivated them to address the issue.

NAMIWalks

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Lane County is hosting its annual fundraising event NAMIWalks May 18 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Island Park in Springfield. It’s a free, family and pet friendly event which has a non-competitive 5k, tabling, kids activities, and food for sale.

Anyone is able to attend NAMIWalks, but people must sign up for the 5k at NAMIWalks.org/lanecounty for liability purposes.

“The main purpose is all around outreach and awareness and creating a stigma-free environment,” said Jennifer MacLean, NAMI Lane County executive director. “The more folks know about the resources in their community, the more they’re able to cope with anything (and) be equipped to handle that.”

NAMI Lane County consistently has free, in-person and online events like support groups and educational programs, and attendees do not need an official mental health diagnosis to participate. Those programs can be found at NAMIlane.org/calendar.

Suicide intervention training

The Lane County Public Health (LCPH) suicide prevention team is also hosting a free, two-day, intensive training in suicide intervention on May 22 and 23 called Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST). To sign up, visit https://tinyurl.com/ASISTLaneCounty.

Adria Godon-Bynum, LCPH youth suicide prevention specialist, said its most important for people enduring a mental health crisis to know that they aren’t alone.

“I feel like we tend to be a pretty individualistic society where we think that we’ve got to solve our problems by ourselves, and we don’t,” said Del Quest, LCPH suicide prevention coordinator. “We need each other. We need to rely on each other and support one another.”

Also, according to Godon-Bynum, the best way someone can prepare for a mental health crisis is to have a couple phone numbers of loved ones or hotlines to call and ask for help. She recommended 988, the national suicide prevention lifeline.

“The best thing to do to prepare for if you’re in a mental health crisis is figure out what you would do if you were in a mental health crisis,” Godon-Bynum said.

Nobody is immune to mental health issues in the same way that nobody is immune to physical health issues, and mental health treatment varies like the physical health treatment would from a paper cut to a car crash.

“I think people are afraid to talk about it. I think people are afraid to show when they’re struggling, and they’re afraid to ask somebody if they think that their friend is struggling,” Quest said. “It’s OK to talk about it. It’s OK to ask questions about it. It’s OK to reach out for help. And I think the stigma around mental health gets in the way of people getting care.”

Crisis Lines

  • Imminent danger to self: 911
  • Suicide and crisis lifeline (press 1 for veteran’s line): 988
  • White Bird 24-hour crisis line: 541-687-4000 or 800-422-7558
  • Looking Glass 24-hour youth crisis line: 541-689-3111
  • Trevor Lifeline for LGBTQ youth: 866-488-7386
  • BlackLine Crisis Line: 800-604-5841
  • Crisis Text Line 24-hour support: text “HOME” to 741-741
  • The Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860
  • The Hope & Safety Alliance for domestic violence support: 541-485-6513
  • Sexual Assault Support Services 24-hour crisis line: 844-404-7700
  • Friendship Line, support for adults 60+: 800-971-0016
  • Oregon Youth Line staffed by youth for youth: 877-968-8491, text “teen2teen” to 839863

For more information on Lane County resources like mental health and substance abuse services, suicide bereavement support groups, and educational resources go to the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Lane County’s resource page: suicidepreventlane.org/resources.

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