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Recognizing the Importance of Mental Health Awareness Month

by Barbara Roland, Division of Behavioral Health, Mental Health Branch Chief

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Seeking counseling or psychiatric services has been surrounded by stigma for years. In reality, many people seek mental health services. Many of those appointments are for help in dealing with anxiety and depression. The Indian Health Service is dedicated to improving the mental health of our American Indian and Alaska Native patients and their families throughout Indian Country.

Fast Facts

1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year.
1 in 20 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year.
1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year.
50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-14.

Untreated mental illness creates or adds to problems in almost every area of life – including marriages, employment, friendships, families, and personal development. The IHS is proud to provide mental health counseling across IHS, tribal, and urban Indian organization facilities. Providers are trauma-informed and trained in culturally-appropriate practices. Counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists utilize evidence-based practices and are trained to treat anxiety, depression, PTSD, substance abuse, serious mental illness, and many other diagnoses in a way that fits each patient.

If you do not want to seek counseling, there are many other ways to sustain your mental health:

  • Take that break! No matter how or where you work or go to school, take care of yourself. Take that break and walk, or call a friend or relative.
  • Stretch. Take a few minutes each hour or two to stand and stretch your legs, shoulders, arms, and feet.
  • Meditate. Close your eyes, clear your mind, or listen to a calming app or sound for a few minutes.
  • Laugh. Look at your phone or tablet and find a joke page. Read a few and pick one to spring at the supper table.

There are many avenues to access therapy, including from your home or other locations through telebehavioral health. Behavioral health treatment works.

If you or a loved one is expressing suicidal thoughts or feelings, call or text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. This is a dedicated line for suicide or trauma and is available 24/7. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, you may also text NATIVE to 741741 to be immediately connected with a trained crisis counselor through the Native Crisis Text Line. All support and resources shared will remain confidential.

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Barbara Roland, Division of Behavioral Health, Mental Health Branch Chief

Barbara Roland is a licensed professional counselor. She has worked with the Indian Health Service for seven years in the field of behavioral health.