By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer
---- — Mental illness can be difficult to talk about.
Key mental health care providers in the area have made it their mission to “Stamp Out Stigma” by getting the conversation ball rolling.
The SOS campaign group includes local key experts in the mental health field who have come up with a plan to share with the community what they know about mental and behavioral illnesses.
By presenting updated facts, they hope to wipe out common misconceptions floating around so people will seek help for a mental illness of their own or a loved one.
“A simple call to 2-1-1 or a referral to a local provider can make a tremendous difference in the life of someone who would not otherwise reach out for help,” Jim Micsky, executive director, United Way of Mercer County, said.
The group includes key mental health experts from Community Counseling Center, UPMC Horizon, and Sharon Regional Behavioral Health Services, supported by the county United Way. Other mental health providers who want to be a part of the initiative would be welcome with open arms, Micsky said.
The campaign is already in full swing.
They have spread the message to several hundred people within the last month. The Reynolds and Farrell school districts called on the SOS campaign group to speak to staff, faculty and students. Several meetings have been scheduled with church groups and organizations such as the boy scouts.
The SOS group met Thursday at the United Way office in Hermitage to discuss the short, concise presentation they are offering to any group or organization who want to make sure their members or employees get the help they need, ensuring that full confidentiality is in play and there will not be any repercussions.
The message focuses on three R’s: Recognize, Reeducate and Reduce.
Recognize the signs of mental illness so you can seek help for yourself or loved ones.
Reeducate yourself and others on mental and emotional health.
Reduce stigma. Reduce hesitation to seeking care. Reduce misunderstandings. Reduce bullying and insensitivity.
“People can and do get better,” Kip Hoffman, Community Counseling Center, said.
He said mental illness is a disease, comparable to diabetes or heart disease. People need to understand that it is biological and neurological.
By understanding the mental disease and its symptoms, family members can offer support as they would to someone with diabetes, for instance.
An important focus of the group is to educate patient care staff and employers.
The health care experts at the SOS meeting stressed that the needs of each patient are different and they are ready to refer individuals to the health care organization that suits them best, even if it not their own.
Contact the United Way of Mercer County to help “Stamp Out Stigma” within your organization at 724-981-1884. Learn more about SOS at stampoutstigma.com.