Mental Health Awareness Month is celebrated each May. Since one in five Americans will experience a mental illness this year, you likely know someone, or you are someone, with mental health concerns. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals who had no prior symptoms of depression or anxiety began to experience changes in their mental health. The last year has given rise to a perfect storm for many since trauma (like we collectively experienced with COVID) and feelings of loneliness and isolation (brought on by limited contact with others due to the pandemic) are both risk factors to mental health conditions. Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in May in the United States since 1949.
If You Are Experiencing a Crisis
If you are someone you love is experiencing a mental health emergency – meaning that they are a risk to themselves or others – there are many avenues to help you. Provident Behavioral Health and Behavioral Health Response (BHR) have 24/7 crisis hotlines staffed by licensed clinicians. They are trained to answer your call and guide you to the help you need:
Provident Behavioral Health – Hotline: 314-647-4357
Behavioral Health Response (BHR) – Hotline: 1-800-811-4760 or (local) 314-469-6644
You may also utilize any emergency room in a mental health crisis. Another option is the SSM Behavioral Health Urgent Care at SSM DePaul Hospital-St. Louis, which opened last year and is the only one of its type in this area.
If the crisis has escalated to the point that 911 needs to be called, ask for a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) trained officer. This is important because CIT officers are specially trained in mental health. They will de-escalate the situation and bring your loved one to a hospital where they can be treated, not to jail. Learn about Missouri’s Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) here.
Where to Start
Talking to your doctor about your symptoms is a great place to start. They will rule out medical issues that could be the cause of the changes you are experiencing. Talking about your feelings with a licensed therapist or visiting a psychiatrist can help you improve your mental health and may be covered by your insurance. Many websites can help you find a therapist. Psychology Today provides this search tool to help you find a professional covered by your private insurance. Or, you can find a covered mental health professional by directly contacting your insurance provider for a list.
If you have Medicare or Medicaid, are underinsured, or are uninsured, you can find a mental health professional through the Missouri Coalition for Community Behavioral Care. The list included here is broken down by county of residence. Find psychiatric treatment providers on the left side of this list and alcohol and substance use treatment providers on the right side. Note: Medicare typically covers very few therapy sessions with a private therapist. However, if you use the Missouri Coalition’s list, you will be able to access more sessions under Medicare if it is deemed appropriate. This is because the listed agencies receive special funding from the state that private therapists do not have access to. However, you may experience longer wait times because there are many in line for these services.
Missouri offers Show Me Hope, a Crisis Counseling Program (CCP) in which counselors – not clinicians like doctors or licensed therapists – are available to talk through stressors and develop an action plan that you can implement to deal with them. This program is funded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and is part of COVID-19 disaster relief efforts. Counselors can refer you to a clinician if desired or needed.
Finally, you may decide a support group is the right treatment option for you. There are clinician-led therapeutic support groups listed on the Psychology Today website. There are also non-therapeutic groups led by peers or other individuals who are not licensed. Peer-led groups mean that the group leader is someone also experiencing that particular mental health illness. Mental Health America (MHA) of Eastern Missouri and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) – St. Louis are two organizations that provide peer-led support groups. These peer leaders are often laypeople with specialty training. It can be beneficial to attend a support group with others experiencing the same feelings – it can remind you that you are not alone!
It is important to continue reducing the stigma surrounding mental health. According to the CDC, mental illness is prevalent in the United States. The CDC also states that poor mental health can increase your risk for physical health conditions, affect your ability to make decisions that benefit your health, and decrease your lifespan. Mental Health Awareness Month gives all of us an opportunity to develop our awareness and to talk about mental health without fear of stigma.There are many resources available in addition to the ones linked in this article:
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) – Missouri Chapter: Prevention, education, and support for those affected by suicide. The AFSP also hosts Mental Health First Aid courses.
- Behavioral Health Network of Greater St. Louis: A network of providers, advocates, and more focused on improving access to mental health resources.
- Saint Louis University Aging and Memory Clinic: A clinic offering various support and loss groups, Cognitive Stimulation Therapy, and caregiver support for families of individuals with dementia and related aging issues.
- Memory Keepers: Offers support for those with memory loss through Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) and CST groups, Montessori for dementia, and Reminiscence Therapy programs.
- Ag State of Mind: Mental health resources focused on those living in rural America.
- Black mental health-specific information is available through Mental Health America (MHA) and from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
- Latinx and Immigrant mental health resources from Casa de Salud. The local organization also offers counseling services through its Mental Health Collaborative program.
- The History of Mental Health Awarness Month
- Asian American and Pacific Islander mental health information and resources from Mental Health America
- LGBTQ+ individuals can find help through MHA and NAMI.
VOYCE hosts mental health-focused webinars
Join VOYCE on May 11 at “Self-Care for Caregivers” and on May 18 at “Walking with Residents through Grief”
If you would like to connect with VOYCE to discuss Mental Health Awareness month or any aspect of mental health please contact us.