Get mental illness out of the shadows


President Obama hosted a summit June 3 in which he called for mental illness to come out of the shadows. With the increased concerns about the role of mental illness in the perpetrators of mass violence, questions are being raised about the adequacy and availability of mental health resources.

Over 54 million Americans experience symptoms of a mental health disorder in any given year, but current estimates are that only about 60 percent of those receive needed services. A variety of factors contribute to the low utilization of mental health services, including stigma, being uninsured or underinsured, and lack of awareness.

President Obama has called for education and training about mental health. A mental illness is a range of difficulties with thoughts, emotions and behaviors that impact an individual’s ability to function at home, at work or in the community. Mental health problems can arise due to stress, difficult situations, physical disorder, and/or biochemical imbalance.

Learning about mental health has been found to reduce stigma and promote wellness. Seeking or asking for help can assist with coping with the many challenges life may bring.

Over the past 20 years, we have learned that mental disorders are very treatable. Many signs of mental illness emerge during adolescence, and this is the prime time for prevention activities. School-based mental health services are the focus of much of President Obama’s violence prevention initiative. Such services improve early identification of mental health disorders, promote emotional stability, and strengthen academic functioning.

President Obama has proposed a new initiative called Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education) to reach 750,000 young people by providing training to teachers and adults who regularly have contact with youth to help them learn how to identify those who need mental health services and connect them with appropriate resources. In order to improve access to mental health services, President Obama has also dedicated funding to train more than 5,000 mental health professionals to work with youth.

When someone with mental health conditions or substance use disorders does not receive the proper treatment and supportive services they need, crisis or high-risk situations can arise that impact individuals, families, schools and communities. By working together and utilizing community resources, we can improve identification of mental health and substance use disorders and help people access the services they need.

The most common reasons for seeking mental health services are depression and anxiety. With one in five Americans experiencing mental health issues at some point in their lifespan, chances are that you or someone you know has struggled with depression and anxiety.

Periods of depression or mood swings, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, and suicidal thoughts can be signs of depression. Other signs of depression can be disturbance of appetite and sleep as well as fatigue.

If you or someone you know experiences hopelessness or verbalizes thoughts of harming self or others, call 911 or contact one of the sources identified below. Help is available. Don’t expect such problems to get better by keeping them hidden in the shadows.


For assistance with mental illness, contact the Hennepin County Adult Crisis Team (Community Outreach for Psychiatric Emergencies or COPE) at 612-596-1223. They will meet with you to do an evaluation and provide recommendations. They are also available for phone consultation 24 hours a day, seven days per week. Or contact Child Crisis services (612-348-2233). 

Deirdre Annice Golden, Ph.D., LP, is director of Behavioral Health for NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center Behavioral Health Clinic, 1313 Penn Ave. N. She welcomes reader responses to, or call 612-543-2705.