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Mental Health Awareness Month: Catching Conditions is Early Key

Green ribbons are the symbol for Mental Health Awareness Month. (New Africa/Adobe Stock)
Green ribbons are the symbol for Mental Health Awareness Month. (New Africa/Adobe Stock)
May 9, 2019

BISMARCK, N.D. – May is Mental Health Awareness Month and North Dakotans are spreading the word about this stigmatized health issue.

Attention is focused on children this week, which is Children's Mental Health Awareness Week.

Carlotta McCleary, executive director of Mental Health America of North Dakota, says at any given time, one in five young people have a mental health condition, showing just how common this issue is.

She says mental health issues should be treated like other chronic conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.

"We need to get to people when they are in the beginning stages of their disorder,” she stresses. “Mental health is the only chronic health condition where we are waiting to stage four of the disorder before we're doing anything."

McCleary says folks should have a conversation with their primary care provider if they feel they are experiencing a mental health issue.

Her organization is holding an event at the Ramada Inn in Bismarck on Saturday to mark Mental Health Awareness Month.

Another issue related to mental health is suicide. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds North Dakota had the country's largest increase in suicide rates – 57% – between 1999 and 2016.

McCleary says it's the second leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24 in the state.

However, she says stigma on this issue and other mental health conditions is a big barrier.

"Oftentimes, it's a stigma that causes people to delay in getting help and getting treatment,” she states. “The stigma also is associated with the lack of funding sometimes around a particular issue."

McCleary adds that up until this legislative session, North Dakota lawmakers weren't properly funding the issue, saying the state was in a “mental health crisis.”

But McCleary praises legislators this year for supporting things such as community-based services, crisis response and early intervention.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND