Throughout May’s Mental Health Awareness Month, and Meridian Behavioral Healthcare trained allies through Mental Health First Aid courses, raised thousands of dollars in The Amazing Give and engaged members of the community at our recovery art exhibit and open house.
Nearly 44 million adults in America, about 1 in 5, experience mental illness in a given year. Of those, 10 million live with a serious mental illness. Throughout May, organizations and individuals across the nation raised awareness, educated communities and fought stigma surrounding mental health issues and treatment.
As a society, we’ve come a long way in fighting stigma, but we still have a long way to go. One of the clearest indications of that is the prevalence of suicide.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death, both nationally and in Florida, according to reports from the Center for Disease Control and Florida Department of Public Health. Nationally, it’s the second leading cause of death of Americans ages 10 to 34.
In 2014, nearly Floridians – roughly 8 per day – took their own lives. The same year saw 42,773 suicides across the country – one death every 12.3 minutes.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that more than 90 percent of suicides were experiencing a significant psychiatric illness or substance use disorder at the time of their death.
Mental illness does not discriminate; there is no “typical” suicide victim in terms of age, race, sex or socioeconomic status. However, there are warning signs, such as:
- Threats or comments about killing themselves, also known as suicidal ideation,
- Increased alcohol and drug use
- Aggressive behavior
- Social withdrawal from friends, family and the community
- Dramatic mood swings
- Talking, writing or thinking about death
- Impulsive or reckless behavior
Training Allies thought Mental Health First Aid
We know how prevalent mental illness and suicide are. To best serve our friends and family members who may be in crisis, however, we have to know what to do with these warning signs in case of an emergency.
Since one of the most effective ways to do this is to equip members of the community to be effective first responders, Meridian offered five free Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training sessions throughout the month.
Modeled after First Aid and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) for medical emergencies, MHFA trains people to recognize and respond to potential mental illness and substance abuse disorders until appropriate professional help can arrive. Participants are introduced to risk factors and warning signs, and engage in experiential activities that build understanding of the impact of illness on individuals and families.
The community showed an overwhelming interest in this program. We offered both youth and adult training sessions, four in Gainesville and one in Live Oak. Gainesville sessions filled up well before deadline. All told, 104 people received Mental Health First Aider certification, granted by the National Council on Behavioral Health.
Raising Money through The Amazing Give
To kick off the month, Meridian participated in The Amazing Give, a 24-hour online event hosted by The Community Foundation of North Central Florida. The Amazing Give recognizes and rewards the contributions of local nonprofits and connects people to the causes that move them the most. Nonprofits across the region received special prizes in the form of cash grants based on their fundraising totals. Thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of our supporters, we raised $4,140 in only 24 hours.
Engaging Our Community at the Recovery Art Exhibit and Open House
Additionally, Meridian celebrated recovery this May with an art exhibit and open house on the evening of May 19 at our new administration building. The art, was provided by artists from AnARTists and Gainesville Opportunity Center. AnARTists coordinator Maggie Hannon facilitated the exhibit, which will remain an ongoing installation of the building’s décor.
Representatives from Meridian programs were on hand to speak with guests about the services available. The evening culminated in a short presentation by Meridian CEO, Dr. Maggie Labarta, on the prevalence and impact of mental illness, and appreciation for community members supporting our mission.
We were honored to participate in Mental Health Awareness Month and join forces with those in our community for whom mental health is a priority.