Mental health speaker discusses how and when to seek help – Monroe Evening News


Mental health issues can affect anybody, but it is not often clear when or how to seek help. Doing just that was the topic of Monroe County Community College’s Thursday webinar, the Importance of Mental Health, which was presented over Zoom by Sonya Quinn of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“Mental health is health,” Quinn said.  “A lot of people don’t think this way, but I say this with passion. How can we, every year, go to a doctor for an annual checkup … but we don’t talk to someone about our mental health and how we’re feeling?”
Quinn is a community engagement coordinator for Toledo office of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a non-profit active in all 50 states, which acts as a middle man for anyone who is in need of mental health assistance. They provide a centralized service that will connect you with the mental health experts that are best for you and then let you and your new doctor take it from there.
“Nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness” according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The prevalence of mental health issues – which Quinn said includes everything from depression to panic disorder, and from post-traumatic stress disorder to obsessive compulsive disorder – carries an often pervasive amount of stigma attached to seeking treatment.
Americans of Color are also disproportionately affected by both stigma and rates of need. According to a report the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hispanic Americans are over four times more likely to have “suicidal thoughts or ideation” compared to White Americans, for example. Quinn stressed the need to deconstruct a culture of silence and denial over the issue and increase the need to “spread mental health awareness so we can de-stigmatize how we think about and identify mental health issues in our society” by “removing the shaming and fear that often surrounds conflicts around someone who needs mental health help, so we can increase the likelihood of someone reaching out who needs help.”
“It’s ok to not be ok,” Quinn also said.
Local mental health resources exist, including at the Monroe County Health Department, the Monroe Community Mental Health Authority, and for staff at the Monroe County Community College. Monroe County Community College President Kojo Quartey lamented a lack of engagement with the resources available to staff there.
The stress factors resulting with isolation, economic and social stress of the Coronavirus era also increased the need for mental health assistance for many people. According to Quinn, mental health issues can be caused from everything from loneliness and past trauma, to a dysfunctional family life.
“I think what is important is we have to look out for each other. We need to check on each other. We don’t do that enough. We have to care about each other and offer each other some grace. There has never been a time like this in our history,” Quartey said.  “We need to recognize that and offer people just a little bit more grace.”
If you are seeking mental health for yourself or someone you know, NAMI is, again, a resource to do that. If you are worried for someone else – who is an adult, and not under guardianship – your options are limited, according to Quinn. Unless that adult is arrested for some reason, getting someone you are concerned about help will depend on persuading them without causing them to shut down. Quinn told The Monroe News that this can be done by “starting a conversation” that would lead to finding a way to suggest getting a professional who can “provide an objective opinion” about someone’s situation, like a psychologist or a psychiatrist. Quinn said you can also increase their likelihood of being comfortable with seeking treatment by being part of their support system, by going with them to the doctor, for example.

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