By Scott Burgess, David Lawrence Center President and CEO
Mental Health America started Mental Health Month nearly 70 years ago to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of good mental health for everyone. This year’s theme is “Life with a Mental Illness” which is a call to action to share what life with a mental illness feels like to someone going through it.
David Lawrence Center is participating in this awareness generating event by creating a dialogue for our community, supporters, clients and their family members about mental health and the feelings associated with them from the inside out.
As affectionately and accurately portrayed in Pixar’s hit movie ’Inside Out’, feelings guide our perceptions of the world, our memories of the past and even our moral judgments of right and wrong, typically in ways that enable effective responses to the current situation. Studies find that our identities are defined by specific emotions, which shape how we perceive the world, how we express ourselves and the responses we evoke in others.
Having healthy relationships and getting on a path to good mental health begins with being able to talk about and understand how you are feeling. By encouraging people to talk about what mental illnesses feel like, and then have them act on that information will give more people a voice to feelings, fears, hopes and dreams so they can be empowered to change the trajectory of their own lives for the better and/or help those we love change theirs.
We know that mental illnesses are common and treatable, and help is available at David Lawrence Center and throughout our community. We need to speak up early – before a crisis – so that people do not feel isolated and alone. By removing the shame and stigma of speaking out, more people can become comfortable coming out of the shadows and seeking the help they need.
Mental Health Month Fair and Open House May 20th
David Lawrence Center is encouraging the community to join us for our first-ever Mental Health Month Fair and Open House on May 20th from 3-5:30 pm at our main campus off of Golden Gate Parkway. There will be plenty of opportunities to express yourself and your feelings while celebrating the many ways we can support our health and wellness during this free, educational, action packed, fun afternoon.
The event will include community partner resource tables representing health, wellness and mental health providers, free screenings, campus tours and brief 15-minute educational presentations on the signs and symptoms of mental illness and substance abuse. The kids and adults alike will also relish the chance to meet furry mental health partners a Clydesdale therapy horse and pet therapy dog.
Attendees will enjoy fun lawn games, a feelings art project, children’s art therapy showcase, crafts, an expressive photo booth, face painting and exercise and yoga demonstrations all while networking with like-minded advocates and health conscious community members.
Plus there will be plenty of healthy snacks from local vendors, drinks and awesome prize drawings such as bikes, tablets, gift baskets, a yoga membership, gift cards and more.
Mental illnesses are medical conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, mood, daily functioning, or ability to relate to others. People who misuse drugs or alcohol may be doing so to self-medicate because of an unidentified or untreated mental health con-
dition. Pay special attention to these behaviors:
. Loss of interest in enjoying activities, hobbies, socializing or school
. Significant decrease in grades
. Problems with memory, attention or concentration
. Changes in energy levels, eating or sleeping patterns
. Feelings of hopelessness or feeling “lost”
. Sadness, anxiety or crying often
. Unusual aggression, disobedience or lashing out verbally
. Changes in personal appearance or hygiene
. Substance abuse
. Dangerous or illegal thrill-seeking behavior
. Paranoia or sudden changes in thinking
. Suicidal thoughts, talking about death, giving away belongings
. Evidence of self-harm
Mental Illness is Common and Treatable
One out of every four people will have a mental illness in their lifetime. About half of these conditions will have the first onset in childhood or adolescence usually before the age of 14, and 75% by the age of 24. Early identification, diagnosis and treatment can help children build skills and resilience as well as prevent more serious problems.
David Lawrence Center is dedicated to ensuring that all children, adolescents and their families have access to services and community supports that maximize personal potential.
A’llawna is an extremely intelligent 9-year-old who battles with oppositional defiant disorder and ADD. When she was referred to the David Lawrence Center’s Children’s Community Action Team she was having violent outbursts, getting suspended and was kicked out of her after school program.
Explosive arguments with her mother resulted in routine Crisis Unit admissions. Through the program’s family-centered intensive mentoring and treatment services, they received the comprehensive support necessary to overcome the loss of her beloved father and learned behavior modification and anger management skills. The team also got her into more challenging gifted classes.
Today her relationship with her mother has never been stronger and they are now savoring all the joys that childhood brings.