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Specialists use Mental Health Awareness Month to open conversations of illness

By Nkoyo Iyamba | Posted - May 4th, 2013 @ 9:28am



SALT LAKE CITY — As media outlets zoom in on mental illness in connection to violence and other societal problems, mental health workers say it's time to talk about treating those who are mentally ill. Health workers are using May, Mental Health Awareness month, to help educate Utahans on services available to treat people struggling with mental illness.

Now that the stigma is dissolving with regards to mental health, said Dean Anderson, Director Outpatient Clinic, Wasatch Mental Health, it's time to begin talking more about mental health illnesses.

"It's just like cancer, diabetes or other medical conditions," Anderson said. "It is a medical condition that can be treated. And so we want to be talking about it."

Anderson said that conversation should start within families and friendships in order to show support for each other. Mental health workers at Wasatch Mental Health will host open houses on May 2nd in hopes of helping families and friends begin those conversations.

Anderson said one of the main challenges with beginning those crucial conversations with loved ones and friends is people don't realize they have a challenge, need help, and where to turn for help dealing with their mental health challenges.

"We're offering for people to come in, see us, and listen to what services are available," Anderson said. "So that we can help the community know that there is help and support and that you don't have to suffer alone."

As Anderson and other mental health workers consult and treat patients, they're encouraged with developments of new treatments and therapies. In addition there are new medication with low side effects and high effectiveness.

"And so when you combine the medications and the therapy, there's a lot of exciting progress that can be made," Anderson said. "And people can live a normal life and function very well and be happy and complete."

In fact, Anderson said he has seen progress when treating patients using a combination of medication and therapy. He compares the medication as a cast on an arm to help the body heal.

"The therapy then works to help them learn the skills," said Anderson. "And help them create the behavior changes or whatever is needed in order to create the course correction in life."

Mental health workers are working to call attention to struggles associated with mental illness so that people will know they're not alone and their condition is treatable.

"Sometimes the depression or anxiety or whatever we're struggling with is a bio-chemical challenge," said Anderson. "And sometimes it's just due to the stress and pressures of life."

Anderson said treating mental illness requires everyone in the community to work together to recognize warning signs, talk about mental health conditions, and encourage family and friends to seek help.

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