Mental-health facts can be scary

Halloween is the time of year when we all welcome being scared. Whether it is witches, ghosts or ghoulish costumes, we delight in the fright because it is fiction. And whether our scare-fest ends in candy or dissipates as the house lights come up, we go home and sleep easily. This Halloween, let’s consider some real-life scary facts—ones that will still be with us when Halloween is over.

Currently, 1 in 4 Idahoans live with a mental-health challenge, 13 percent of Idaho’s youth between the ages of 12-17 will suffer a major depressive episode, and 55 percent of Idahoans will receive no treatment for their mental-health needs on any given year. Furthermore, suicide is the second leading cause of death among Idahoans aged 15-34 and up to age 44 in men. Regardless of these facts, Idaho ranks 49th in the nation in spending on mental illness.

In our area, we have many therapists to provide on-going treatment (most have waiting lists), and only two psychiatrists who can prescribe and monitor medications. This means that each mental-health professional is responsible for too many patients, and not many are trauma-informed. This is not only unrealistic, but it is also impossible.

St. Luke’s, the Public Health District and private providers do what they can, but are unable to provide mental-health treatment options to everyone that needs them in a timely manner. There are wait times not only here locally, but also nationwide, to see a mental-health therapist. Given the toll that these challenges take on the individual and their families and friends, the solution shouldn’t rest solely in the hands of St. Luke’s or the government. The system is strained, and NAMI—Wood River Valley’s Peer Model support groups are here to fill some of these gaps in this private-public partnership.

NAMI’s support network empowers family members and individuals facing mental-health challenges to share their stories with each other in a support group setting. They receive the knowledge and tools they need to effectively advocate for their families and for themselves. Attendees connect with others who have walked that path. For families, who all too often are like a deer in headlights, this is where NAMI steps in. We can help. Loved ones and families don’t have to walk down that scary path alone. The stigma associated with a diagnosis shouldn’t be like “skeletons in the closet.” Many of us living with a mental-health condition live amazing lives, thanks to treatment plans.

NAMI’s teen support group, called the Bluebirds, empowers teens to advocate for themselves. Members connect in a peer setting to share coping strategies and support each other. Bluebirds help participants to know that they are not alone.

Our adult groups now meet six times a month, and we have women and men’s groups, as well as groups for all genders. Our Family Support Group now meets in Ketchum and Hailey, twice a month.

NAMI-WRV also coordinates with the judicial system. We work closely with the Probation Office, the Sheriff’s Office and the judiciary to help individuals get the treatment they need, to keep them out of the system. We hope to expand upon these programs.

Please join us, and our community partners, in our ongoing efforts to work on early intervention and to provide the best care possible for our community members struggling with mental-health challenges. Getting diagnosed with anxiety, depression, bipolar or an eating disorder shouldn’t be a death sentence or something that people have to manage on their own. Stand with us as we break down the barriers of stigma in our community and allow people to come out from the shadows. This shouldn’t be a scary process, but for many it is.

No tricks, just treats for those who live with these challenges. Recovery is possible and NAMI can help with community support.

Christina Cernansky is the executive director of NAMI—Wood River Valley.