We ALL need and deserve Mental Health Literacy!
Abbie Rosenberg PMHNP-BC, RN
In times before the global health pandemic, youth were experiencing mental health challenges, including but not limited to anxiety, depression, loneliness, suicidal ideation, and suicidal attempts. According to a recent report by Mental Health America, youth mental health is worsening, especially with higher-risk populations.
We know that 50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14 and 75% by age 24. We also know there is an average delay between the onset of symptoms and intervention of 8 – 11 years. This may be due to stigma, lack of knowledge, poor resources, and/or poor help-seeking efficacy. There is a tremendous need for Mental Health Literacy throughout whole communities so that we can shorten this gap and people can get the treatment and help that they need and deserve. Research has shown that early identification, diagnosis, and proper treatment of mental illness have substantial positive long-term effects on recovery.
As we look ahead to the effects on mental health from COVID-19 stemming from social isolation, loss, loved ones being sick, canceled events, school format changes, and much more, there is a significantly increased need to support our youth, their parents, and the communities in which they live.
MHC has recently with NAHPL, and we are excited to share our innovative model with members. Along with all of the other important types of literacy we promote, we hope to spread our mission of building resilient communities through teaching mental health literacy to middle school and high school students and whole communities. Our train-the-trainer model is cost-effective, sustainable, and allows educators to do what they do best: Teach students!
What is Mental Health Literacy?
Mental Health Literacy is the knowledge and understanding that helps us become responsible, effective, and successful in living healthy, full lives. In our schools, we don’t teach mental health literacy to the extent that we should be, and our youth are paying the price.
Mental Health Literacy is built on 4 essential pillars:
1. Understanding how to optimize and maintain good mental health. We all need to know how to improve and maintain our mental health, especially when life hands us curve balls and there is uncertainty in our environment.
2. Understanding mental illnesses and their treatments. Just as we learn about illnesses in other parts of our body, we need to learn about illnesses that impact the brain. We need to learn the difference between when something is an illness of the brain and requires professional evidence-based treatment, versus when we are experiencing tough times and need extra support and help problem-solving.
3. Decreasing Stigma. The stigma that surrounds mental illness gets in the way of people getting the help that they need and deserve when struggling with mental illness and mental health challenges. We all need to learn the myths versus the realities and help to fight the stigma so that people stop suffering silently.
4. Enhancing help-seeking efficacy. Knowing when to get professional help, how to access it, and what to expect when going for help is imperative. We have easy access to this information when it comes to most branches of medicine, but it is more difficult to know when and how to get help in psychiatry.
As a result of this partnership, we hope to promote earlier identification and intervention for youth and young adults struggling with mental health challenges. Together NAHPL and MHC will continue to make a great impact. MHC has multiple programs which all teach and educate about mental health literacy. If you are interested, please see: www.mentalhealthcollaborative.org or contact Abbie Rosenberg at 508-625-1660.