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MASON CITY, IA – Recent events like the tragic school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary are not only raising issues on gun control, but about mental health issues.
Many across the nation are calling for better access to mental health services and a better overall understanding of what mental well-being really is.
United Way of North Central Iowa Regional Coordinator, Drew Norton said, “Everything that’s going on in the world and Iowa and North Iowa is bringing more attention to mental health.”
And this May, the topic will be getting even more attention as Mental Health Awareness Month kicks off on a local level.
Norton said, “When people talk about mental health, it’s kind of uncomfortable, no one really understands. They think that, oh if someone has a mental illness they’re never going to get better, they can’t socialize with people, they can’t work. Well those things aren’t true.”
But in order to get rid of that stigma, a discussion needs to happen.
Norton said, “Those issues are in our community and there’s mental health problems and there are ways to become more active with mental health.”
Sometimes taking that step is the hardest part.
Psychologist, Dr. Dan Courtney said, “Our minds are built to just not be aware of what we do not want to face.”
Experts say while mental health issues are gaining more attention, we as a society and community need to be more educated. And that education starts by going beyond reading a just a pamphlet or two.
Dr. Courtney said, “People need to be more trauma informed. They need to understand how life events, particularly during the developmental years, affect emotional functioning and the complications it creates for a lifetime.”
Not all mental issues lead to a negative outcome, but that’s why it’s important to know what resources are there to help.
Dr. Courtney said, “We have a full spectrum of outpatient services, which means psychotherapy and medications. There’s North Iowa Transition Center, there’s Francis Lauer Youth Services.”
But some say there’s always more we can do.
Norton said, “We are screening kids with depression, suicide, anything like that. And we need more places for those kids to go.”