Posted on: May 15, 2019 | Julie Rael, LCSW, CCO Valley Behavioral Health This May marks the 70th anniversary and celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental health awareness is essential. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 46.6 million Americans experience difficulties of mental illness and 1 in 5 people have a mental health condition. With such staggering numbers, it’s more important than ever to remove the stigma surrounding mental health and raise awareness. How Did Mental Health Awareness Month Start? Mental Health America and other affiliates across the U.S. have been observing Mental Health Month every May since 1949. This is and has been done by teaching millions of people about mental illness through local events, screenings, and media. This year, Mental Health America is focusing on specific topics such as: Animal Companionship Humor Social Connections & Recreation Spirituality and Religion Work-Life Balance The primary focus of Mental Health Awareness Month is to raise awareness about the effects that mental illness can have, as well as destigmatizing mental illness. The first step is, of course, being aware of what mental health is, how to recognize it, and how to treat it. Understanding Mental Illness Mental illness can co-occur with substance use and chronic health conditions, and can negatively impact an individual’s daily functioning, work or school performance, and in more severe cases lead to permanent disability, incarceration, and homelessness. Whether an individual begins to experience deterioration in their mental health or experience a host of symptoms, it is important to know when to seek help or receive an adjustment in their current treatment plan if symptoms return or worsen. Oftentimes, family members are the first to recognize the onset or return of an individual’s symptoms, and they can help provide the encouragement and support that their loved one needs to seek help. Understanding mental illness symptoms and signs are the first step in raising awareness. The goal of this specialized month is to work together to create a positive change. By shifting the systemic and social barriers, we can help those who need it get the appropriate treatment and care they require. At the center of Mental Health Awareness Month is the desire to encourage others to learn more about mental illness if they or a loved one hasn’t been personally affected by it. Mental Illness Symptoms We can practice mental health awareness by recognizing the common symptoms of mental illnesses listed below: A change in sleep patterns including Difficulty falling, staying asleep or sleeping too much Lack of energy, motivation and constant fatigue Irritability or lashing out in anger A period of low mood, sadness or no longer enjoying activities that previously brought enjoyment Difficulty concentrating and completing tasks Significant appetite changes or weight loss or weight gain Disheveled appearance and decline in grooming and hygiene Deterioration in work or school performance Interpersonal difficulties, avoidance of social gatherings or isolation Constant worry or fear Bodily aches and pains and unexplained physical ailments Distortions in perception which can include delusional thinking, hallucinations, and paranoia Recurring nightmares Substance abuse and an increase in use Suicidal thoughts or behaviors Early intervention and seeking help are key in addressing symptoms of mental illness and can prevent further decline and other problems. To get started, it is recommended that an individual complete a mental health screening and evaluation by a licensed mental health provider. During the evaluation, the clinician will learn about symptom onset and severity, obtain a medical and social history, and other questions to make a formal diagnosis and provide treatment recommendations. Treatment Options As a mental health facility in Utah, Highland Springs Specialty Clinic has a variety of treatment options. The most common issues we address include: Depression Postpartum Depression Anxiety Addiction Trauma & PTSD The most common treatments for mental illness are psychotherapy and medication management, but there is a continuum of evidence-based treatments available to treat various mental health diagnoses with varying severities. Highland Springs Specialty Clinic offers a few different breakthrough treatments. Brainsway An FDA approved, breakthrough treatment, Brainsway DTMS (Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) is a non-invasive treatment that is used for major depression. This treatment works by increasing serotonin levels in the brain region that is responsible for depression. It has been found to bring significant improvements in symptoms in a short amount of time. EMDR Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR Therapy) is used to treat anxiety, PTSD, and trauma. This is done by using a patient’s own rapid eye movements to minimize the power of specific memories of past trauma. Specialists in EMDR help patient’s turn traumatic memories into helpful feelings and thoughts and studies have found that recovery rates can be as high as 90%. DBT Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is used to treat borderline personality disorder and other similar mood disorders. As one of the renowned DBT centers, Highland Springs Specialty Clinic offers evidence-based services that are made to improve relationships, decrease mood swings, and improve self-image. How to Participate in Mental Health Awareness Month There are a variety of ways to participate and get involved throughout the month of May. You can share stories about yourself or others, how you show support, and what it means to have access to care. National Alliance of Mental Illness has a variety of fundraisers and other methods to bring awareness to your community throughout the month. Highland Springs Specialty Clinic provides mental health screening, evaluation, and a continuum of evidence-based treatments for mental and behavioral health needs. Highland Springs also accepts a variety of insurances and assists individuals with obtaining financial assistance to pay for treatment. Observance of Mental Health Awareness Month is the first step in understanding and informing others of the importance of destigmatizing mental health issues. If you or someone you know is suffering, please give us a call today and schedule a confidential counseling appointment. Call Today Julie Rael, LCSW, CCO Valley Behavioral HealthMs. Rael earned her Bachelor’s degree in psychology and her Master’s degree in social work with a substance use treatment certificate at the University of Utah. She began working at Valley in 2005 and is a licensed clinical social worker. Prior to obtaining her Master’s degree, she worked as a case manager in a homeless shelter connecting individuals to occupational and housing resources and as a social service worker teaching vocational and psycho-educational skills to youth, refugees, and adults with mental health and substance use difficulties. Ms. Rael enjoyed seeing the participants gain more skills and the confidence to move on to employment and further education. After completing her Master’s degree, she worked as a therapist providing individual and group psychotherapy with individuals with substance use and mental health difficulties. After obtaining her LCSW license, she transitioned to a team lead position that provided intense community treatment and outreach services for individuals needing more than traditional outpatient services. Ms. Rael went on to manage and further develop programing for two behavioral health clinics with multidisciplinary treatment teams. She has worked as Field Instructor training and supervising MSW interns for the University of Utah’s Social Work department for the past six years. Ms. Rael was promoted to a Director of Adult Mental Health services in 2017, and then began providing oversight of Valley’s Forensics clinic in 2018. She has also served as a board member and volunteer for a local non-profit that provides individuals the training and support needed to obtain meaningful employment after incarceration and recovery from substance use difficulties. Ms. Rael believes that evidenced-based treatments, collaboration with health care providers, and connecting individuals to recovery support programs are essential factors in obtaining effective treatment outcomes. She is passionate about working alongside individuals to discover their unique strengths, grow and continue to progress in becoming their personal best. In the role of Chief Clinical Officer, Ms. Rael will be working collaboratively with clinical and medical leadership to improve clinical processes, program development and identify those interventions which will best predict clinical success for each of the conditions that we treat. She will be a coach to all Adult and Children’s Clinical Directors and will serve on the Valley Academy team to ensure all Valley Staff feel properly trained and well prepared to bring Valley Behavioral Health’s systems of care to the forefront of our industry.