May 6, 2011

State of Alabama
Press Release: Mental Health, Department of

RECENT TORNADOES ADD ANOTHER REASON FOR ADMH TO PROMOTE

MONTGOMERY – Each year, the Alabama Department of Mental Health joins with statewide and national organizations to promote National Mental Health Month, which is observed annually in May. In the wake of last week’s devastating tornadoes statewide, this observance serving to raise awareness of mental health conditions and mental wellness could not be more timely.

When a disaster the magnitude of last week’s storms and tornadoes occurs, mental health issues are likely to follow as people struggle to deal with the loss of life and property. ADMH is working in collaboration with other agencies under the Governor’s office to secure a FEMA grant to obtain reimbursement for crisis counseling follow-up in affected areas across the state, as well as making land in Tuscaloosa available to FEMA for a staging area and for trailers. Additionally, through the collaborative efforts of the University of Alabama Schools of Social Work, Psychology and Medicine, ADMH is providing space for a crisis counseling center on the campus of Bryce Hospital.

Aside from the timeliness of the subject in relation to the tornado outbreaks in Alabama, the pervasiveness of mental health disorders might take some by surprise. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, an estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older – about one in four adults – have a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. About six percent of American adults live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder. In Alabama, ADMH serves more than 100,000 people per year with serious mental illness through community contract providers and more than 4,000 people per year in state psychiatric hospitals.

Although mental health disorders are common, they are also highly treatable with modern medication and care. According to Dr. Tammy Peacock, associate commissioner for the Division of Mental Illness & Substance Abuse Services at ADMH, “We want everyone to realize that like all illnesses, individuals with mental illness recover every day of the week. The stigma wrongly associated with mental illnesses often hinders people from seeking treatment at the early stages of the disease. Observances such as National Mental Health Month help reduce this stigma.”

Mental Health America, a national advocacy organization with local affiliates in Alabama, launched Mental Health Week, which eventually became May is Mental Health Month in 1949. This year they hope to raise awareness of mental health and mental wellness through two themes. Do More for 1 in 4 is a call to action to help the one in four American adults who live with a diagnosable, treatable mental health condition reach recovery. Live Well! It’s Essential for Your Potential focuses on the importance of mental wellness and the steps everyone can take to improve their well-being and resiliency in the face of difficult times and challenges. Mental Health America offers a Live Your Life Well program with ten science-based tools to manage stress and help you relax, grow and flourish. To learn more about Mental Health America and National Mental Health Month, visit www.nmha.org/.

Other advocacy organizations around the state are celebrating National Mental Health Month as well. For example, NAMI Birmingham (a local affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness) is hosting a Mental Health Awareness Walk on May 21, 2011, at Veteran’s Park in Hoover. Details about this walk can be found at www.namibirmingham.org.

RESOURCES

Information about mental health services in the state of Alabama can be obtained by contacting the Department of Mental Health’s Office of Public Information and Community Relations at 334-242-3417 or by visiting us online at www.mh.alabama.gov.

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