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By Robert Cornell

Steuben County Recognizes Mental Health Awareness Month

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“Call us at 607-664-2255 and we will assist anyone in meeting their mental health needs.”

From Steuben County,

While roughly one person in five in the USA lives with a mental illness, one-third of the national population lives in counties designated as a mental health professional shortage area.

That stark and overwhelming need has led Steuben County officials to join other counties across the nation in naming May as National Mental Health Awareness Month.

“We intend to highlight the continued commitment of Steuben County in ensuring that crucial mental health services and resources are accessible for all residents in need,” said county Legislature Chairman Scott Van Etten, R-Caton. “When we know nearly one in five adults and one in five adolescents in the United States live with a mental illness we must act vigorously and with purpose.”

One of the first steps in dealing with the problem is recognizing there is a problem, and reducing the stigma associated with mental illness, local officials said.

“Mental health impacts a person’s emotional, social, environmental, financial and overall well-being,” said Lynn Lewis, LCSW-R, Assistant Director of Community Services. “Mental health issues do not simply affect a person; they affect all their loved ones and all those who interact with that person. Given the number of people currently living with mental health issues and those who have at one point or another in their lives, it is fair to say mental health affects all of us.”

Roughly 44 percent of residents detained in jails are diagnosed with a mental illness, often with co-occurring substance use disorders, which adds to the stigma and compounds it, she said. “While many people seek treatment and help, many people do not. Those that do not will often alleviate their symptoms with poor coping tools which can lead to: self-medication, trouble with the law, poor relationships, job instability, and financial troubles,” she said.

What may be most alarming is the data showing suicide is now the second-leading cause of death for 15- to 24- year-olds, with teenagers experiencing a 17 percent increase in the use of anxiety medications since 2010, local officials said.

“Mental health issues are manageable with the appropriate help and support ,” said Auralee Jefferds, LCSW-R, Adult Clinic Program Coordinator.

Steuben provides a safety net for residents in need through crisis services and by offering a number of programs through the Office of Community Services as well as referrals to other programs, Lewis said.

Steuben County and its partner agencies have decades of experience in providing critical services for individuals with mental health and substance use needs.

“We as a community can reduce the stigma associated with mental health and substance use needs; breaking down barriers that prevent individuals from seeking assistance,” Jefferds said. “Call us at 607-664-2255 and we will assist anyone in meeting their mental health needs.”

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