Here and Everywhere—May is Mental Health Awareness Month
by Dr. Larry Durbin
Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in the United States since 1949. It was started by the National Association of Mental Health (now known as Mental Health America) with the purpose of raising awareness and educating the public about mental illnesses. More recently, there has been increased focus on educating the public not only about the conditions themselves, but also about the realities of living with these conditions and strategies for attaining and maintaining mental health and overall wellness.
Many other state and national organizations join in the effort to call attention to mental health awareness during the month of May and there is generally a theme associated with each year’s activities. The 2017 theme is “Risky Business” which focuses on habits and behaviors which can exacerbate existing mental health conditions or even be evidence of an existing mental health issue. These issues may include drug use, risky sexual activity, and other addictive behaviors and habits. Other themes within the past few years include: “Mind Your Health”, “Pathways to Wellness”, and “Live Your Life Well.” Wellness is such an important part of all of our lives and maintaining mental health wellness is essential to an overall sense of wellness.
At Support Solutions, there has been a focus since our beginning in 2005 on providing needed supports and services for the whole person. Specializing in supporting individuals with dual diagnoses (mental health issues alongside an intellectual disability), there was early recognition of the need to have appropriate mental health services available as part of the person’s overall Support Plan. In 2010, we hired psychologists and a cadre of Behavior Analysts along with a consulting psychiatrist to implement mental health services in Memphis and ultimately in locations throughout Tennessee and North Carolina. Those mental health services were enhanced in 2016 through the addition of an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) in Memphis and now the IOP has expanded to our Jackson offices. This therapeutic intervention is available to persons receiving primary support from Support Solutions as well as others who are in DIDD programs or Supported Housing with our mental health partner, Mid-South Health. In 2017, a full-time Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner was appointed to continue expansion of outpatient services in west Tennessee and eventually to other locales in Tennessee. As of April, 2017, Support Solutions is providing mental health services to almost one hundred patients on an ongoing basis in addition to supporting eighty nine individuals with Behavior Analyst Services in Tennessee and North Carolina.
Support Solutions has always focused on individuals living their “Best Life”, a life with a full opportunity to be Happy, Healthy, and Safe. Certainly, the Healthy includes mental health and it is our continued mission to insure that clinical services and other needed mental health services are readily available to the people we support and others in the community having similar needs. In recognition of 2017 Mental Health Awareness Month, our organization continues to be a full partner in educating the IDD community concerning mental health issues and insuring appropriate mental health services for persons with intellectual disability across all of our service areas.