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Reaching Out for Help with Mental Health Issues

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May 30, 2012

BISMARCK, N.D. - From depression to anxiety and bipolar disorder, one in four North Dakotans will experience some type of mental-health issue or concern this year, officials say - although a number of people with such issues will not seek treatment.

For many, says mental-health expert JoAnne Hoesel, a stigma surrounds mental illness, including the barriers put up by people who are suffering from these conditions.

"Sometimes, people feel ashamed and embarrassed to seek assistance with something that they might think is within their control. It can come from the community. It can come from family. But it's not something that you can wish away - but there is treatment."

The stigma is not the only barrier to people seeking help with mental conditions, says Hoesel, director of the Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the North Dakota Department of Human Services, There also are those who aren't insured or whose insurance doesn't cover mental health, she says, and others who feel they can't afford care. There also are not enough providers, she adds - a problem that is even more acute in rural areas of North Dakota.

"We are what's considered a 'professional under-served' state in almost all of our counties, and with transportation there always remain challenges in people being able to either go to or be reached by a provider."

Hoesel says it's important that people realize that a mental illness is like any other medical condition and the sooner the person seeks help, the easier it is to treat.

May has been Mental Health Awareness Month.

More information is online at

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND