Lead Letter: Support for mental health is greatly needed

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As a mental health advocate in Jacksonville, I applaud the Times-Union for sharing the story of the Marquis family and their son’s struggle with mental illness.

Overall, the news media have done a less-than-stellar job presenting a clear understanding of mental illness, especially in light of the recent shootings at UCLA and in Orlando. This has led to confusion and fear.

Mental illness represents over 450 disorders. The National Institute for Mental Health reports that 1 in 5 adults will experience some form of mental illness in a given year with 1 in 4 adults experiencing a mental health disorder during their lifetime. The public needs to be educated on the definition of mental illness because it affects nearly a quarter of the population.

Mental illness includes anorexia, autism, depression, anxiety, PTSD and countless others. The overwhelming majority of individuals are not dangerous, and 90 percent of the treated population live successful lives.

Unlike other forms of discrimination, the stigma of mental illness spans all races, religions, genders, age and sexual orientation. Simply put, mental illness can affect anyone.

In the case of the Marquis family described in Editor Frank Denton’s column last Sunday, we got to see the humanity in their situation. Their son had a very uncommon form that progressed to its most advanced stages.

The National Institute for Mental Health states that severe disorders, such as schizophrenia, only account for 1.1 percent of the adult population. Treatment can be very costly and is limited, which is why many who have progressed to that stage end up in the county jail system.

It is lack of resources, education and support, not criminality.

Those of us in the advocacy field are working diligently to reach those who need support before their illnesses advances and while in recovery.

We are training in mental health first aid, suicide prevention, peer mentoring, art and music therapy and more.

We are not professionals, just community-minded individuals who believe that mental health is critical to overall health.

ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN THE FLORIDA-TIMES UNION 6/30/16

 

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