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CT Group Seeks to Break Stigmas Around Mental Illness

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Wednesday, May 19, 2021   

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. - May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and groups in Connecticut are hoping to increase understanding and acceptance of the mental-health challenges people face every day.

Heightened awareness of mental health is more prevalent than ever, most likely the result of the pandemic. According to
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveys from August 2020 to February 2021, 38% of respondents reported feeling anxious or depressed, compared with 11% in 2019.

Luis Perez, president and chief executive of Mental Health Connecticut, said COVID-19 has brought the "human condition" to the forefront.

"It has shifted the conversation about those who are diagnosed with a mental-health condition to the, if you will, 'common cold' of having feelings of anxiety, feelings of sadness, because we have experienced such a shock to our system," he said.

Perez said he hopes funding through the American Rescue Act will help mitigate some of the costs associated with the ongoing high demand for mental-health services in Connecticut. That includes extension of telehealth, which he said will especially help patients living in rural areas who can't easily get to providers.

Like a physical diagnosis, Perez said early treatment of a mental-health condition ultimately could lead to a much better outcome and quality of life.

"Prevention, early identification, access to services, and the fulfillment of the covenant, and the promise, that yes, there is recovery, and you can live with a mental-health condition and have a full life, has opened an opportunity for us to have that discussion," he said.

Perez said good personal support systems and a supportive work environment are vital to mental well-being.

There are some common tipoffs that a person might be in mental distress. Perez recommended that people do check-ins - not only with loved ones, but with themselves - to see if something serious may be developing.

"It starts with a really good inventory of what you were like before," he said. "Are you starting to feel worn down? Are you sleeping more? Are you eating more? Are you sleeping less? Are you not eating as much and skipping meals?"

Perez said he hopes, post-pandemic, that more people will put mental-health issues on an equal footing with physical health. Information about mental-health care in Connecticut is available by calling 211, or online at mhconn.org. Emotional-crisis hotlines are reachable anytime, in any state, at 1-800-273-TALK, or by texting START to 741741.


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