SACRAMENTO, Calif. - In honor of Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), the Sacramento County Division of Behavioral Health Services (DBHS) is promoting its available mental health programs to enhance awareness of local resources and issues around mental illness.
MIAW, sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), is observed nationally October 2-8 and provides an opportunity to increase awareness and reduce stigma around mental illnesses, such as major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Roughly one in every four adults and one in five children will experience a diagnosable mental disorder during their lifetime. Here in Sacramento County it is estimated that nearly 300,000 residents have a mental health issue but research shows that only one-third of those individuals will seek professional help primarily due to the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness.
“Mental illnesses are serious and not only affect a large number of people each year, but all demographics and ages as well,” said Ann Edwards, director of Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services. “While the county offers year-round programs to assist those with mental illness, this week provides the opportunity to promote the fact that mental illness is as common as any other physical illness, and that there are local resources and treatment options for Sacramento County residents that allow people to live their lives normally.”
To fight the barriers that prevent individuals from getting help, Sacramento County has developed several programs through the Mental Health Services Act. These programs include:
· Supporting Community Connections (SCC): SCC is part of the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) Suicide Prevention Project and funds six agencies to provide community outreach, education on suicide prevention and awareness.
· Law Enforcement Training: Formally known as “Mental Health Training for Crisis Responders,” currently provides a two-hour course to the Sacramento Police Department that consists of an overview of mental health/illness and current resources available to law enforcement.
· Mental Health First Aid: This 12-hour course, available to interested community members, seeks to inform individuals to help and connect persons with mental illness to services and support. The program seeks to reduce stigma and discrimination, reduce the negative effects of living with mental illness and most importantly, helps to transform communities to be accepting and understanding of mental illness.
In addition, Sacramento County will soon be launching its Mental Health Stigma and Discrimination Reduction Multi-Media Campaign, which will focus on:
· Dispelling myths and stereotypes about mental illness
· Promoting positive beliefs and attitudes about living with mental illness
· Promoting messages of wellness, hope and recovery
· Highlighting available community programs and services
“Through its mental health initiatives, Sacramento County DBHS is encouraging the entire Sacramento community to work together to create an accepting and positive environment toward people with mental illness, which is an outcome that is made possible through programs such as NAMI’s Mental Illness Awareness Week,” Edwards concluded.