Mental Health

Trying to end the stigma: Organizations attempt to dispel myths of mental health issues in wake of Arizona shooting

Several mental health experts in Delaware County, including Dr. Kevin Caputo, chairman of psychiatry at Crozer-Chester Medical Center, echoed DiStefano’s comments. The Arizona shooting heightens the stigma of mental health and the belief that the majority of people with a mental illness are violent, according to Caputo. “When in fact, most people who have a mental illness will never harm anyone,” he said.

In a recent release, the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania cited a 2009 study in the Schizophrenia Bulletin that found only one in 14 million individuals is killed by a stranger with a mental health condition.

When there is a lot of negative publicity about a person who may have a mental illness, it can create a negative attitude in the public’s mind, according to Joseph Rogers, chief advocacy officer at the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

 

Several mental health experts in Delaware County, including Dr. Kevin Caputo, chairman of psychiatry at Crozer-Chester Medical Center, echoed DiStefano’s comments. The Arizona shooting heightens the stigma of mental health and the belief that the majority of people with a mental illness are violent, according to Caputo. “When in fact, most people who have a mental illness will never harm anyone,” he said.

In a recent release, the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania cited a 2009 study in the Schizophrenia Bulletin that found only one in 14 million individuals is killed by a stranger with a mental health condition.

When there is a lot of negative publicity about a person who may have a mental illness, it can create a negative attitude in the public’s mind, according to Joseph Rogers, chief advocacy officer at the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

And sometimes, it can deter those who may feel disturbed from getting help, according to local experts.

“To the degree that those seeking help are afraid that they will be labeled mentally ill, it can keep people from getting the help when they need it,” Rogers said.

Caputo said major tragedies can encourage family and friends to get help for people. On the other hand, negative publicity may deter those people who are not aware they need help from getting the assistance they need, he said.

“If you have concerns about somebody, urge the person to get help from a mental health professional,” Caputo said.

If a disturbed individual doesn’t want to get help, Caputo recommends their loved ones look into the mental health laws in their state to see what can be done.

In Pennsylvania, family members or other responsible parties, such as police officers or physicians, who witness an individual putting his or herself in danger, can file a 302 Emergency Involuntary Commitment Petition at the nearest crisis center. Although this option is available, DiStefano said it’s always better to convince a person to voluntarily get help.

DiStefano said there are two 24-hour, walk-in crisis units in the county, including Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby Borough and Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Upland. In addition, Project REACH, based in Upper Darby, provides 24-hour telephone crisis counseling and mobile crisis outreach. The nonprofit organization has provided services to Delaware County residents on a contracted basis through Holcomb Behavioral Health Services.

For people who may be worried about costs associated with mental health treatment, DiStefano said they should never let that fear keep them from getting help.

“One of the crisis centers will never turn them away,” she said.

Project REACH also does proactive outreach at schools and police departments, according to Dr. Roger Osmun, chief clinical officer at Holcomb Behavioral Health Services. Project REACH staff members also do “post-vention” work in which they follow up with the community following a traumatic event. For instance, if a local student commits suicide, Project REACH follows up with classmates and, if needed, connects them with ongoing counselors.

“The goal is to try and let the people stay in the community,” Osmun said.

In addition to Project REACH, county residents can get help through a crisis residential treatment facility at Elwyn, a nonprofit human services organization based in Middletown.

On a national level, several programs, such as Mental Health First Aid, have generated a lot of interest following the Arizona shooting. The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, the Maryland State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Missouri Department of Mental Health worked with the Australia-based program’s founders to bring it to the United States three years ago.

Bryan Gibb, director of public education at the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, likened the program to CPR training for mental health. He said there are about 1,000 program instructors across the country and about 12,000 people have been certified to date.
Source:

URL: http://www.delcotimes.com/articles/2011/01/24/news/doc4d3cf14626a15957695260.prt

© 2011 delcotimes.com, a Journal Register Property

Leave a Reply