It’s Memorial Day weekend, which means it’s the last weekend of Mental Health Awareness Month. But that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to spread awareness throughout the year on this critical and often misunderstood public health issue.
Mental health challenges—such as depression, anxiety, psychosis, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse—are shockingly common in the Unites States. Would you guess that more than 16 million American adults are affected by depression in a given year? Or that 3.3 million American adults suffer from bipolar disorder? Or that over 11 million Americans will experience psychosis in their lifetime?
At AMPHS, we’ve found that the stressors often endured by the low-income immigrant populations we serve can lead to many of these mental health challenges. Inadequate housing, financial hardship, social isolation, fear of deportation—it is no wonder that a 2008 study conducted by the Carolina Population Center at UNC-Chapel Hill found 30% of Latino adolescents in North Carolina (93% of whom were not US citizens) showed signs of sub-clinical or clinical anxiety, and 18% showed signs of depression. The Asian Outreach Program at The Child Center of NY also identifies “the stigma still surrounding mental health and substance abuse treatment in traditional Asian cultures” as a particular obstacle for newly immigrated Asian children and adolescents at higher risk for mental health and substance abuse issues.
That is why we at AMPHS are making mental health a priority. With The National Council for Behavioral Health, we are providing Mental Health First Aid courses to help individuals work with those who are developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. Identified on SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices, this training helps the public better identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses.
Based on the pioneering work of Mental Health First Aid founders Betty Kitchener and Tony Jorm, this 8-hour training certification course instructs participants on a five-step action plan to assess a situation, select and implement interventions, and secure appropriate care for the individual experiencing a mental health crisis. Thorough evaluations, in randomized controlled trials and a quantitative study, have proved this CPR-like program effective in improving trainees’ knowledge of mental disorders, reducing stigma, and increasing the amount of help provided to others.
This program is generously co-sponsored by Senator Jesse Hamilton, the Chinese-American Planning Council Brooklyn Community Center, and African Services Committee.
To learn more about Mental Health Awareness, visit Mental Health America whose awareness theme this year is Life with a Mental Illness, for which they’ve called on individuals to share what life with a mental illness feels like for them in words, pictures and video by tagging their social media posts with #mentalillnessfeelslike. All posts are collected here.
For more information on Academy of Medical & Public Health Services and our other training programs, visit www.amphsonline.org.
For more information on Mental Health First Aid, visit www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org.