May - Mental Health Awareness Month - Reach out for help

19 May 2021 | Laurie Pearson The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

May is Mental Health Awareness month and an opportunity to highlight the importance of focusing on the overall health and well-being of individuals and families aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, California.

Mental health is an essential part of everyone’s ability to maneuver through life and the Behavioral Health Section offers myriad programs and classes to provide support for those facing challenges.

“Mental health issues are common,” said James Maher, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, BH Section Head. “So common in fact, that it would take days to adequately discuss all of the essential diagnoses outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, used to diagnose mental health disorders, as well as warning signs, building resiliency and coping skills, types of interventions and the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.”

So often, the subject of mental health can seem taboo to many. But the good thing is that mental and emotional health issues can be improved with the right motivation and coaching.

“Mental health and substance use challenges look different for each person affected,” Maher said. “Two people with the same diagnosis can have very different outcomes depending on their support system, their environment, outlook on life and motivation to improve. It can be easy to generalize or make assumptions, but realities vary, and life challenges versus resiliency factors can impact how a person copes and functions and relates to others.”

Studies show that mental health in the United States is worsening among all age groups. While this is because of a number of factors, one fact stands out: Many people are not receiving the treatment they need.

“Stigma around mental health and lack of access to care are driving many people away from getting the care they need,” Maher said. “Over the years, a great deal of work has started to reduce the stigma of mental health and there’s been progress in making these conversations feel ‘normal.’ Today, as COVID-19 has impacted all of us in different ways, discussions around mental health are becoming increasingly common, and more people are reaching out for help.”

These are statistics published by Morgan Solomon-Maynard on November 5, 2020:

• In late June, 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance use.

• One in six U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year.

• Depression alone costs the nation about $210.5 billion annually.

• The average delay between onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment is 11 years.

• Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people aged 10-34 in the U.S. and the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.

• Many people suffer from more than one mental disorder at a time.

• More than 70 percent of youth in juvenile justice system have a diagnosed mental illness.

• Transgender adults are 12 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population.

• The most common mental illnesses in the U.S. are anxiety disorders, which affect 40 million adults (18.1 percent of the population).

Mental health and substance use challenges affect everyone differently, and recognizing when to get help for yourself or offer support to others is an important step in improving these statistics.

“Anxiety, depression, high levels of stress and adjustment disorders are some of the most common mental health issues,” said Jesica Grow, New Parent Support Program clinician. “I believe it has to do with the fast pace at which our society runs and the overwhelming demands life puts on us, whether it is about work, home, children or school and so forth.”

According to studies reported by the American Psychological Association, inability to cope with stress can create or exacerbate a mental or emotional issue. Overwhelming or chronic stress can lead to illness, injuries and accidents if the person does not have adequate coping skills and/or a good support system. It can also take a toll on a person physically, mentally and on relationships.

"...We can offer people an opportunity to explore their choices and teach techniques to help them resolve issues too.” James Maher, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and BH Section Head

“Instead of focusing on mental illness, Positive Psychology pays attention to resiliency and improved coping skills,” said Maher. “The focus should be on developing a healthy lifestyle to include exercise, maintaining a positive outlook, prayer or meditation, developing calming methods, building relationships and a positive social network, feelings of competency and using good listening skills. Positive Psychology also teaches us to focus on what is going right in our lives and to be grateful for positive experiences and for the people who are meaningful to us. Being assertive as opposed to using aggressive or passive communication is also an important part of good health care."

All of us have times when we are depressed or anxious. That is common and normal. We all have losses in our lives, or face challenges that are anxiety producing. Only when depression or anxiety become so pronounced that it interferes significantly with daily living is it considered a mental disorder.

How a person handles their responsibilities to themselves and others is what may cause or exacerbate mental health concerns.

“The number one mistake that will exacerbate any mental illness is the use of alcohol and drugs to mask problems,” Grow said.

It’s important to speak up early.

“People tend to stay in their minds and overthink which can lead to overly-critical thinking,” she said. “They might ruminate about an issue and make it bigger than it actually is. This can be harmful to our mental health which is why it is important to practice healthy coping strategies or ask for support."

She explained that if someone is already struggling with a mental or emotional challenges, then they might continue to struggle until they get help by speaking to someone else and getting a new perspective, new ideas and views other than their own. Knowing why someone is depressed or anxious is important but does not solve the problem until someone takes action.

“Someone suffering from anxiety may feel constantly worried, have unreasonable fears, feel restlessness or keyed up, be easily fatigued, have difficulty concentrating, be irritable and have sleep disturbances,” said Grow. “Whereas with depression, the person may have diminished interests, lose pleasure in activities they used to enjoy, lose or gain weight, have fatigue, suffer from feelings of worthlessness or self-loathing, have a diminished ability to concentrate, and sometimes have recurring thoughts of suicide.”

It’s important to recognize symptoms early. In an effort to prevent a crisis, education is paramount. Know what to look for.

“You may notice someone withdrawing from social connections, they may have addictions to the internet to include pornography, or you may notice them engaging in sexually risky behaviors, drinking more, taking financial risks, and other compulsive behaviors,” Maher said.

Usually the first clue of a mental disorder is that a person’s behaviors become significantly different than before.

Many times, a mental health crisis can be resolved favorably with early intervention.

“Studies have shown that most people receiving counseling do report improvements,” Maher said. “There are lifestyle changes that can be made, as well, to help with a condition. We can offer people an opportunity to explore their choices and teach techniques to help them resolve issues too.”

One of the most important things a person can do for mental health is to identify a purpose in one’s life that they want to aspire to. Having a “why” to live for will make it much easier to persevere during difficult times.

The Behavioral Health division has non-medical programs to help develop coping skills and resiliency.

“Our Behavioral Health program has no medical personnel, so no medication is prescribed,” Maher explained. “In order to be evaluated for medication we would refer a patient to a local doctor or to Weed Army Community Hospital. Some of the services offered here at MCLB Barstow include family advocacy counseling, family support, prevention and education regarding child abuse and domestic violence and Substance Abuse counseling, a Sexual Assault and Response Program, and cognitive behavioral counseling through the Community Counseling Program which is free to ADSMs and their dependents. It was established in 2013 to reduce the stigma of counseling and to make education and counseling on issues such as depression and anxiety and/or adjustment issues and relationship and parenting issues easier to access with the goal of a better adjustment and improved coping skills before the issues develop into something more serious.”

Although the CCP is set up to work with ADSMs and their dependents, if a DoD employee is in a crisis, a CCP Counselor can meet with the person and try to help stabilize the person and then link them into an appropriate resource such as their Employee Assistance Program.

Our BH Program is now located in the back of building 218 in front of the MCX. The MCX parking lot has access to the entrance of our building.

Behavioral Health also offer stress and anger management classes and a monthly Wellness Series Class in collaboration with Semper Fit, FTB and other programs and free and confidential one on one consultation to explain services and theories like Cognitive Behavior Therapy in order to see if counseling is the right choice for a person. If another resource is more appropriate such as financial counseling, then Behavioral Health can provide information and referrals to other appropriate resources. For more information about Behavioral Health programs, or to consult about developing a strategy for overcoming a mental or emotional issue, contact Behavioral Health at (760) 577-6533.