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Don’t forget folks with mental illness

By Star Jameson, Hamilton
We are fortunate in this valley to have a full spectrum of mental health services for folks experiencing loss, depression, suicidal thoughts, mania and other of the mental challenges. Recently it was brought to my attention that 1:17 adults in the U.S. live with a serious mental illness like schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder. But did you know 1:5 Montana families are affected by severe mental illness. That’s a huge number of friends and neighbors who struggle with worry, medication issues, employment and entitlement issues, besides day-to-day survival for their family member or partner.
In September, a CDC report stated that cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and other chronic diseases are often associated with mental illness. Interestingly the treatment of mental illness can also reduce the effect of chronic diseases.
That 40 percent of people with mental and substance use disorders never get treated is a shocking fact. These are the very folks that need support, treatment, medications and on-going guidance. But the good news is that treatment is increasingly successful. The National Advisory Mental Health Council reported recently that the recovery rate for bipolar disorder is a remarkable 80 percent, for major depression 65-80%.
Riverfront Counseling and Support in Hamilton has offered an array of services for years in our valley, including out patient therapy, group therapy, drop-in center and group home. Now they have also added West House Crisis Stabilization Center for folks that need an emotional “time out” to regroup, get medications adjusted, or to rest and renew after trauma, loss or break down. If they meet the criteria for inability to care for self or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, then here is a haven of quiet, good food, caring staff and psychiatric professionals to address inner and outer needs. Our valley is extremely fortunate to have such a facility.
Currently there is a case in Eastern Montana involving a person with serious illness who is accused of killing three individuals. Let us remember that the prevalence of violence among the mentally ill is far lower than in the general population. Let us be inclusive of folks that have life long issues with chemical imbalances, knowing they are reaching for a sense of belonging, and meaning in their lives, just like you and I. And if you know someone who has a family member with mental illness, show your support. It will make a difference.

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