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When going gets tough, the tough get some help

Joan Oliver
Joan Oliver

Life these days can be difficult for a lot of us, young and old alike.

Maybe we’re dealing with health issues, our own or someone else’s. Maybe we’ve lost our job or are dealing with college debt or mounting bills. Maybe we’re being harassed at work or at school, or are the victims of bullying. Or maybe it’s something else entirely.

Or maybe it’s a wave of things that feel like a tsunami threatening to overwhelm us.

Whatever the case, a lot of us carry heavy loads. Unfortunately, a lot of us don’t ever ask for help.

That’s among the findings of a study called “America’s Mental Health 2018,” which was put out by the Cohen Veterans Network and the National Council for Behavioral Health, and shared with me by the McHenry County Mental Health Board.

According to the study, the demand for mental health services is strong, with 6 in 10 Americans saying they have sought or wanted to seek services for either themselves or for a loved one.

Not surprisingly, the study also found that 76% of respondents said they felt that mental health is as important as physical health.

So why aren’t more people availing themselves of mental health services?

A lot of people don’t know where to turn, with 46% of respondents saying they wouldn’t know where to go if they needed treatment in the future.

Nearly one-third of Americans have worried about being judged for seeking mental health services. And more than one-fifth said they have even lied to avoid telling people they were seeking mental health services. Sadly, a stigma still exists.

That’s why it’s so heartening to see professional athletes, such as Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps, go public with their own mental health struggles. It can happen to anyone, anywhere and for any number of reasons.

Common reasons people seek mental health treatment include feeling unhappy, having severe anxiety and not feeling like oneself, along with more urgent reasons, such as feeling suicidal and worrying that one might harm others. That last one was the least often cited reason.

Access also can be a problem, with many respondents saying that costs and poor insurance coverage are a barrier to getting help. Sometimes it’s because services aren’t nearby or that they have to wait to get treatment.

Here in McHenry County, the Mental Health Board is doing what it can to address the issues of accessibility for mental health services.

Younger people, particularly those in Gen Z and Millennials, especially need to be made aware of the availability of services. According to the study, many turn to unreliable sources, such as social media, when they can’t figure out legitimate resources online.

To help young and old alike, the Mental Health Board offers a free app called MCHELP, which is available 24/7 and connects the user via text or voice with a licensed, professional counselor.

Also, let’s not forget that the McHenry County Crisis Line, which is staffed around the clock and is available at 800-892-8900.

There’s also a “services directory” on the Mental Health Board’s website at www.mc708.org. The Mental Health Board also can be reached during normal business hours at 815-455-2828 to help ones find the services they need.

All of us need to remember that it’s OK to not be OK all the time.

Help is readily available. We just need to reach out and get it.

• Joan Oliver is a former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at jolivercolumn@gmail.com.

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