Media Advisory: Mental Health Awareness

Millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental health condition. In fact, one in five Americans will be affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime and every American will be affected or impacted through their friends and family. Mental Health Awareness Month is an opportunity to educate the public about the stigmas, needed support and efforts of advocacy for equal care.

Dr. Janee Both Gragg, a social justice advocate and professor in the University of Redlands School of Education’s Graduate Department of Leadership & Counseling, is a subject expert on mental health awareness who is available by appointment to the media. Both Gragg’s broad scope of expertise includes psychotherapy, substance abuse counseling, marriage & family counseling, school mental health, global mental health and community outreach. She is the founder of the University’s Alliance for Community Transformation and Wellness.

Five trending topics to consider for articles include:

Suicide rates rising nationally. Recent national statistics show an increase in suicides across all age groups. (Source: American Association of Suicidology.) Both Gragg says this concerning trend will likely lead to federal funding increases in order to support prevention and intervention efforts within communities.

Challenges seeking and accessing mental health services. Both Gragg notes that research indicates the integration of mental health care into primary care settings may improve issues of access and utilization by decreasing stigma and increasing the likelihood that referrals lead to implementation of services. Simultaneously, research is highlighting that doctors and other medical professionals themselves are an at risk group experiencing increasing levels of depression and rising suicide rates. It is believed that 4% of doctor deaths are a result of suicide due in part to long hours, malpractice lawsuits, extensive student loans, difficult patients, a challenging medical system and ease of access to medications (Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health).

School-based mental health. Both Gragg says another important trend in mental health is its integration into P-12 school settings. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 20 percent of youth between 13-18 years of age live with a mental health condition and approximately 50 percent of children age 14 and older with a mental illness drop out of school. “Incorporating counseling services into the school settings is in the best interest of students, families and communities as well as school teachers and administrators by making much needed mental health services increasingly accessible. Research shows that mental health programs can play and important role in reducing the stigma of help seeking, supporting prevention, increasing mental health awareness, supporting programs designed to decrease school violence, reducing bullying, school suspensions, and referrals to special education,” she says.

College Mental Health. Both Gragg says college counseling centers have seen a steady increase in demand for services over the last six years (Source: Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State University). With issues ranging from depression, anxiety, substance abuse, difficulty sleeping and more serve illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, counseling centers are struggling to meet the demand. The increase in utilization of counseling services may in part be due to the vulnerabilities of the developmental stage, a reflection of increased stress in the academic environment or a decrease in coping ability.

Stigma and discrimination. Both Gragg notes the stigma and discrimination reduction (SDR) movement is growing rapidly in California and for good reason. Most people don’t realize that one in four American adults live with a diagnosable mental illness in a given year. Perhaps more surprising is the fact that half of all mental illnesses start by age 14 and three-quarters start by age 22. An average of 6 to 8 years passes after the onset of symptoms of a mental health challenge before many people actually reach out for help. Often, this hesitation to seek help is the result of the stigma that surrounds our notions of mental health, as well as the fear and pain of discrimination associate with these beliefs. The good news though and something else people may not know, is that with support and treatment, between 70 and 90 percent of individuals report reduced symptoms and improved quality of life. People can and do get better, and by talking openly and honestly about mental health we make that possible.

To arrange an interview or consult with Dr. Both Gragg, call Jennifer Dobbs at 909.748.8857

About the Alliance for Community Transformation and Wellness

The University of Redlands Alliance for Community Transformation and Wellness (ACTW) was established in the Spring of 2014 to engage community members in conversations about and action toward mental health and wellness. ACTW is honored to have partnered with Each Mind Matters, a grassroots movement under the California Mental Health Services Authority and funded by voter-approved Prop 63, to bring mental health awareness community engagement programming to the Inland Empire.