LIMA — When Ohioans saw the height of the opiate epidemic hit in 2017, they knew what to do: They looked out for one another. They offered moral and medical support.
They need to return to those levels again, mental health officials agreed.
“We have now in 2019 surpassed the overdose numbers that we experienced in 2017, and in 2021 we are on track to surpass last year,” said Tami Colon, executive director of the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Allen, Auglaize and Hardin Counties. “The good news is we were able to effectively address this between 2017 and 2018. We know what we need to do. We just need to do more of it; we need to get to more areas in our community.”
May marks Mental Health Awareness Month, making it an ideal time to honestly assess our mental health and seek out help if we’re struggling, said Adah Ellerbrock, regional development executive for Coleman Professionals. People can show their support by wearing green throughout the month.
“We need to bring awareness and break the stigma,” Ellerbrock said. “It’s normally put underneath the rug, or someone feels ashamed when they have it. We want to help to break the stigma, to get rid of the things that are tied into mental health where it’s considered a bad disease. We want to help those that have mental health illness, and help them to improve and stay strong and be aware so they can speak proudly that they have something, and they want some help.”
One wise move is to take a mental health assessment. For instance, you can take a mental health screening at wecarepeople.org/screening. People can also call the crisis line, the Hopeline, at 1-800-567-HOPE (4673) or text 741714.
The stresses brought on by COVID-19 have only made it harder for people who are struggling with their mental health, Colon said.
“We know that there are populations that are way more isolated than ever, and so we have had to adjust the way in which we service our community,” Colon said.
That’s meant moving some services out of an office setting and helping people find “the resources that they need,” Colon said.
“You don’t have to suffer alone,” Colon said. “We don’t want you to normalize the symptoms of mental illness because of the conditions in which our world is in right now.”
Particularly, she noted trouble sleeping and trouble eating as you normally might, could be signs of an untreated condition.
“The sooner they’re addressed, the easier they are to be addressed,” she said.
Lima Mayor David Berger presented a proclamation for Mental Health Awareness Month on Wednesday. He recognized the successful team approach that’s developed in the region over the years.
“Whether it’s our schools and students or whether it’s our churches and religious leaders or mental health professionals, there really is I think a sense of teamwork that has established itself around these issues,” Berger said. “I want to applaud that. I think that’s, frankly, the only way we can successfully treat this disease.”