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Putting a renewed focus on mental health in Cleveland

October 12, 2107 | By Ginger Christ

National conversations around healthcare reform and mental health make now more than ever the time to put a renewed focus on mental illness in the community, say leaders at The Centers for Families and Children.

“Mental illness is a difficult subject, one that is so often surrounded by confusion, clouded by stigma and fraught with misunderstanding. Too often, so much about mental illness, information that would help to illuminate this issue and the challenges that surround it, remains unsaid,” Elizabeth Newman, president and CEO of The Centers, said Tuesday an annual benefit luncheon for The Centers.

But creating open conversations about mental illness and offering holistic solutions can help, she said. Through its programs and services, The Centers tries to help those struggling with education, health and wellness services and workforce development.

“Today as we celebrate World Mental Health Day, we strive to raise awareness on the impact of mental awareness but also the hope that can be found in effective intervention and care. We know that stability is possible, recovery is possible and that people living with mental illness can enjoy a higher quality of life,” Newman said.

About one-third of the 25,000 clients The Centers annually serves have a mental illness like depression, anxiety or PTSD. Many of those people also live in poverty. They are dealing with the daily stress of poverty – choosing food or rent, transportation or healthcare – and also have to handle mental illness, Newman said.

“This is the reality of what we see every day at The Centers,” she said.

That’s why The Centers is working with primary care providers and other organizations like the Cleveland FoodBank to try to create an integrated holistic healthcare option for the most vulnerable in society, through things like food pharmacies and mental health and addiction services.

Roughly 10,000 of the people The Centers serves need access to primary care, where they can get preventive service and early intervention, Newman said.

“We need to get to them before they end up in the emergency room or the hospital or worse,” she said.

Ron Powers, author of “No One Cares About Crazy People: The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America,” underscored the need for intervention in and understanding of mental illness.

Powers, whose son committed suicide after battling with schizophrenia, said people in all walks of life, from doctors to first responders to police officers, need a deeper understanding of mental illness

“We must sweep away the stigma and the denial that surrounds mentally ill people and their families,” said Powers, who delivered the keynote address at the benefit. “It is disgusting how much ignorance is out there regarding mental illness, including the people we count on to rescue the mentally ill.”

More than 400 people attended the benefit Tuesday, raising $120,000 and making it one of the most successful fundraisers for The Centers yet.

cleveland.com

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