ERIE COUNTY, NY – Mental Health Awareness Month (MHAM) has been observed in the U.S. since 1949. Every May, the nation recognizes that mental health plays an important role in our overall health. With that in mind, the Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) is sharing mental health resources with a special focus on children and adolescents. May is also Adolescent Health Month.
“Mental health is not just living without a mental illness. It describes our emotional, psychological and social well-being, and how we handle everyday stressors,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein. “If you have tooth pain, you seek out a dentist. If you are experiencing mental health challenges, addressing that has to be a priority, just like any type of physical pain or discomfort. Seek out self-care, supportive friends or treatment and therapy if the need is there.”
Children and teens are especially vulnerable to mental health challenges. According to recent CDC data, about three in five (57%) U.S. teen girls felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021. This is almost 60% higher than 2011, and the highest level reported over the past decade. One in three (30%) U.S. teen girls also seriously considered attempting suicide, which is almost 60% higher than a decade ago.
“Our vision at Live Well Erie is to leave no one behind, and that of course, includes children,” said Deputy County Executive Lisa Chimera. Live Well Erie defines and addresses the health needs of Erie County’s children through three goals:
Goal 1: Children will grow up in a stable, safe, and supportive community
Goal 2: Children will achieve comprehensive health
Goal 3: Children will realize their greatest potential
“Our wellness initiatives include supporting healthy eating and physical activity, identifying social-emotional and developmental delays in young children and linking families to appropriate resources, and bringing together community stakeholders to adopt the National Infant and Toddler Collaborative – they are all central to our Live Well Erie goals,” Chimera explained. “And mental health and resilience for children across all age groups are vital to improving the quality of life in our county.”
ECDOH recognizes the importance of building a trauma-informed community. Many people experience a traumatic event at one point in their life. Individual response to trauma can vary widely, and the implications can be lasting, especially if treatment is not sought. Erie County residents can be resilient in the face of trauma by being trauma-informed within their social networks, and by being connected to resources and training opportunities.
For any mental health challenges that are concerning, it is important to seek professional help. Visit FindTreatment.gov to find a provider treating substance use disorders, mental illness, and conditions like grief, depression, trauma and anxiety. The Erie County Department of Mental Health maintains listings of local mental health services, substance use disorder services, and a host of other resources.
Regardless of age, self-care can play an important role in maintaining mental health. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) provides some important tips:
- Get regular exercise
- Eat healthy, regular meals and stay hydrated
- Make sleep a priority
- Try a relaxing activity
- Set goals and priorities
- Practice gratitude
- Focus on positivity
- Stay connected.
ECDOH’s Office of Health Equity (OHE) is offering Mental Health First Aid Training to the public to provide adults with practical tools to provide support for someone experiencing a mental health challenge. OHE also provides trainings for groups of adults who primarily work with adults, or adults who primarily work with children and adolescents. If you would like to schedule Adult or Youth Mental Health First Aid Training for your organization, please complete the Request Form for Mental Health First Aid Training for Organizations.
OHE also published two newsletters in its Health Equity Beat series: Let’s Talk About Mental Health, and Let’s Talk About Grief. Each focused on practical recommendations and local resources for individuals.
988 is the national three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline for immediate help. Calls in Erie County go to Crisis Services. When people call or text 9-8-8 or chat 988lifeline.org, they are connected to trained counselors who listen, provide support and connect them to any necessary resources. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline provides 24-hour, free, and confidential help for anyone who needs it.
By Parveen Attai, MPH, Public Health Fellow