The community encourages talking about mental health to raise awareness and increase access to resources
By SHRADDHA JHINGAN — [email protected]
In a press release published on May 16, Yolo County proclaimed the month of May as Mental Health Awareness Month. According to the press release, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors met on May 24 to pass a resolution that would designate May 2022 as Mental Health Awareness Month.
“Promoting awareness, recognition, and intervention of mental illness proves critical,” the press release reads. “To meet the mental health needs in our community, the Yolo County Health & Human Services Agency (HHSA) has taken a collaborative approach and prioritized program development to reach underserved populations.”
John Fout, the public information officer for Yolo County, explained that Yolo County has proclaimed May as Mental Health Awareness Month in the past. By doing so, it helps to raise awareness of mental health.
“So, I think we’ve had a tradition of proclaiming May as Mental Health Awareness Month,” Fout said. “Our Board of Supervisors and our Health and Human Service Agencies have always had a very large commitment to mental health and [are] trying to take action about mental health.”
Fout added that because there is often not enough awareness around mental health, this results in there being a lack of, or fewer mental health resources.
“So one of the problems with mental health is that often, there’s not enough awareness or recognition of the problem,” Fout said. “And that means that a lot of times, there’s not the intervention when it actually needs to be necessary. So it’s really important to make sure that we step up, we talk about it, and we get people to realize what’s going on, and that action does need to be taken.”
According to the press release, Yolo County was recognized as a Stepping Up Innovator County by the National Association of Counties for its “expertise in using data to drive decisions and better outcomes on the number of incarcerated people who have serious mental illnesses.” As a result of this, almost 6,000 individuals who are booked into jail “are screened for mental illnesses” annually.
The data used has been integrated across various systems such as behavioral health, program design, resource development and evaluation to help decrease the baseline rate of individuals who enter jail with behavioral health needs. According to the press release, this number is currently 50%. More data can be found in the press release.
“Mental Health Awareness Month gives us an opportunity to raise awareness of those living in our community with mental health and behavioral health symptoms and to help reduce the stigma that so many experience that can impede access to care,” said Karleen Jakowski, the interim health director for Yolo County, in the press release. “Collaboration is the cornerstone to improving access to mental health services throughout our community.”
Jakowski added that through collaboration, this will help to increase the number of people who get access to mental health services, as well as the quality of these services.
“By working together, we can align our efforts, maximize our impact and realize a shared vision of ensuring that every resident of Yolo County can get the appropriate services and quality of care they need to support their resiliency, health and wellness,” Jakowski said in the press release.
The press release also acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic has “exacerbated feelings of isolation and stress,” while also increasing public awareness regarding mental health. To celebrate the month of May as Mental Health Month HHSA staff wore the color green “and gathered for a moment of recognition”.
According to the press release, in order to create an environment in which everybody is able to safely access mental health services, people can show compassion because they may not know what someone else is going through. Furthermore they can take part in awareness opportunities during the month or even create their own awareness opportunities to teach and foster awareness — even by simply asking if other people are feeling okay. More information can be found on HHSA’s website.
Written by: Shraddha Jhingan — [email protected]