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Make sure services are available to mentally ill

  • Published Sunday, July 8, 2012, at 12 a.m.

Is mental illness more prevalent in our community, or are we getting better at recognizing the need for treatment?

The answer to this question is complex. Many variables contribute to the state of a person’s mental health, so it is accurate to say that the rate of prevalence in a community may fluctuate with contributing factors such as greater economic instability or personal challenges. However, our community is certainly becoming more aware of the prevalence of mental illness, as well as the symptoms and treatment.

About 1 in 4 adults – or about 57.7 million Americans – experiences the symptoms of a mental health disorder in any given year. Five of the top 10 leading causes of disability worldwide are mental illnesses, such as depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, substance use disorder and obsessive compulsive disorders.

The illnesses often start in late adolescence or early adulthood. Many times people go without treatment for a variety of reasons, including not recognizing the symptoms as a treatable condition, inability to access care, and stigma related to the disorder.

The good news is that treatment works. In fact, up to 90 percent of people who can be identified as having a mental illness and will participate in treatment will recover.

Comcare of Sedgwick County provides community-based and outpatient mental health and substance abuse treatment services. Crisis services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by calling 316-660-7500.

Receiving funds from the people served as well as the state of Kansas and Sedgwick County, Comcare functions as the “safety net” for county residents with a mental illness, many of whom have little or no insurance. The demand for services has steadily increased over the past five years, even though funding has not.

Understanding that identification and treatment are key to addressing mental illness, the Crisis Intervention Team initiative was put in place in 2008 to help improve the skills of law enforcement officers and others to identify and respond to someone experiencing a mental health crisis. To date, 275 area responders have received 40 hours of specialized training as part of this initiative. Additionally, 333 community members have received training in Mental Health First Aid, a program that teaches anyone from mental health professionals to family members to identify and respond to individuals in crisis.

Let us continue to work together to make sure that services are available for those people when the need is identified.

Marilyn Cook is director of Comcare of Sedgwick County.

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