"You Are Not Alone"
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to help raise awareness about mental health, fight stigma associated with mental illness, educate our communities, and advocate for policies that support those affected by mental illness.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the largest grassroots mental health organization in the country, invites others in to realize a shared vision of a nation where no one feels alone in their struggles with living with a mental illness or caring for loved ones with mental illness.
As part of the Outreach family, I am grateful for the opportunity to share information about NAMI and the work we do to address those living with mental health conditions. The national statistics for mental illness are staggering, and the numbers for Indiana are just as sobering:
An estimated 988,000 adults in Indiana have a mental health condition – that’s more than four times the population of Ft. Wayne – and nearly a third of those with a diagnosed mental health condition live with a serious mental illness like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Only about four in ten people in Indiana with a mental health condition receive any treatment in an average year.
3.7 million Hoosiers live in a mental health professional shortage area, meaning there aren’t enough psychiatrists, therapists, or practitioners to treat the population who need those services.
In 2020, Outreach’s Youth and Young Adult Coaches made more than 250 referrals to services aiding those we serve with finding employment, obtaining identification, or accessing food programs – including 21 to mental health resources. While the percentage of mental health referrals may be low in comparison to overall referrals, mental health affects the youth and young adults we serve.
Half of mental illness conditions are identified by age 14, 75 percent by age 24.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 15-24 years old.
African Americans living below the poverty level are twice as likely to report psychological distress (compared to those with more financial security.)
One study showed that 63 percent of Black people believe that having a mental health condition is a sign of personal weakness, contributing to the stigma of mental illness and reluctance for people of color to seek care.
These statistics describe the mental health landscape pre-2020; the ripple effects of the pandemic and national social and racial unrest have highlighted and increased the challenges for those already experiencing trauma, homelessness, and mental illness. Social determinants of health –the range of personal, social, economic, and environmental factors that influence overall health, quality of life, and long-term outcomes – greatly impact the support systems necessary for those experiencing homelessness and for those with mental illness. Access to care is just one barrier these populations face.
Despite these stats, however, recovery is reachable for those living with mental illness and organizations like NAMI and Outreach can be part of that recovery. NAMI Indiana and its affiliates offer support groups for individuals with mental illness or family members with loved ones with mental illness; courses and events to provide training and education; and resources to help navigate the journey of having mental illness. Outreach and its dedicated staff of Youth and Young Adult Coaches and steadfast group of volunteers help provide a support system that addresses nearly every social determinant of health – including access and opportunity for basic needs, stable housing and employment, or continued education. Most importantly, the greatest support offered to the youth and young adults Outreach serves is the network of trusted, caring adults who help equip and empower these individuals with self-sufficiency, confidence, and stability. This care addresses the needs of youth and young adults holistically, from basic needs like food and clothing to fulfill physical needs to loving, spiritual guidance to fulfill mental health and emotional needs. Outreach is able to provide this care and help build a safety net for youth and young adults facing homelessness with its own supportive network of volunteers, donors, and funders as well as community partners like Adult & Child Health.
For more information on NAMI, including references for statistics mentioned, please visit NAMI’s website at NAMI.org. For more information about support groups, educational presentations, or signature programs, please visit NAMI Indiana’s website at NAMIIndiana.org.
In addition to serving as Outreach’s grants manager, Linh Preston is an In Our Own Voice speaker and the Board President for NAMI Indiana, the NAMI state organization, which oversees the 15 NAMI alliances across Indiana and three NAMI on Campus affiliates at Indiana, Indiana State, and Purdue universities.