Council looks at mental health project: Ways of helping lift stigma discussed
by DELANEY WALKER Banner Staff Writer
Jun 26, 2014 | 990 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
New voices at the Bradley County Health Council lit a fire under the much-discussed mental health project Tuesday afternoon, during the regularly scheduled monthly meeting.

Members debated how best to disseminate the information to reach the target population. Much of the conversation centered around the pros and cons of creating a brochure.

Ann Marie Brewer of SkyRidge Medical Center suggested sending a list of resources to nurses and office managers.

Conversation continued on how best to reach uninsured adults who are unlikely to visit a doctor’s office. The question of stigma over mental health treatment was not considered. A research project completed by several Lee University students suggested it is not an issue among the teen population.

Eve Nite of Mental Health Cooperative reminded health council members that parents are the ones who seek help for their children. A student’s nonplussed reaction toward a mental health disorder means nothing in light of a parent’s refusal to utilize resources.

She supported her statement with results from a behavioral health factor survey completed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention of 147,000 adults in 37 states. Approximately 89 percent of the adults agreed mental health treatment works. However, only 30 percent of the individuals in need of the resources seek them out.

Nite applied the results to a group of 10 individuals. She labeled three with mental health issues. According to statistics, only 1 out of the 3 will make an attempt to access the resources.

“That being said, in Tennessee there were 946 suicides, which is about how many motor vehicle deaths [were in the state in a recent year],” Nite said. “In Tennessee, as many people are dying by suicide as they are in motor vehicle crashes.

“We have billboards for ‘Click-it or Ticket.’ We have radio ads and TV ads and all of these different promotional [items] to prevent motor vehicle deaths, and yet here we are talking about resources when literally people are dying because of stigma, not because of the availability of resources.”

Brewer agreed, and said mental health has been a much-discussed issue since the council’s creation in 1994. She suggested the members focus once again on addressing the stigma attached to the disorders. One proposal borrows the billboard idea.

Nite added, “If the point of a health council is to increase the health of your county and your population, then go to all of this abundance of research that says [destructive] mental health is the most preventable leading cause of death.”

Conversation shifted momentarily to the education sector of the local communities.

Keith Brock of GRAAB said he was disappointed in the lack of mental health awareness in the elementary schools. He suggested some teenagers develop at-risk behaviors in an effort to deal with their issues. Instead, he would like to see individuals educated at a younger age before the temptation of drugs and alcohol are present.

A fellow health council member agreed with Brock, and said even children are exposed to high stress situations.

“They have so much to deal with in their home life. They may be depressed, but they are too young to understand what depression is,” she said. “They carry all of the baggage that is going on at home, whether it is physical abuse, mental abuse, drug addiction, whatever it may be. Our kids deal with a lot.”

Tim Tatum, of Pine Ridge Medical Center, said stigma has kept some mental health organizations from speaking to a majority of schools. He explained people tend to believe talking about mental health might increase the likelihood of an individual developing a disorder.

According to Tatum this idea, however prevalent, is false.

Moderator Joyce Clem suggested every health council member update their information on the Ocoee Regional Resource Guide.

Tatum offered to gather additional resources from lesser known local agencies.

United Way of Bradley County VISTA Danielle Seals said the information would be used for the upcoming 2-1-1 information number.

In other news, Tatum requested health council members and Tennessee residents register to receive a free suicide prevention license plate at tspn.org. Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network is trying to get 1,000 signed up by June 30.

The link can be found at tspn.org. There is no cost associated with signing up for the license plate.