For centuries, mental illness — from mild, temporary depression, to severe, persistent schizophrenia — has been stigmatized. In recent years, however, mental health services increasingly are recognized as being just as important as physical health services. These days, many people are comfortable seeking counseling or other help as they navigate the ups and downs of life and seek mental well-being.

As a longtime physician who recognizes the value of mental health services, this acceptance is welcome and long overdue. The connection between mental and physical well-being is strong and undeniable.

Mental illnesses are common. In any given year, one in four U.S. adults will experience a mental health problem, which can range from mild to moderate to severe. That means the chances are great that you, or someone close to you, is struggling.

Mental wellness is something we all have a stake in — whether we ourselves are facing a behavioral health issue, or whether it is a close family member, friend, or neighbor. Promoting mental wellness strengthens our entire community.

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and a good time to talk about mental health and wellness, to encourage people in need to seek help, and to celebrate the strides we all have taken in integrating support and services into our community.

In the Cottage Grove area, the great majority of residents who seek behavioral health services find their way to South Lane Mental Health, the area’s principal provider. South Lane Mental Health has worked hard not only to expand the range of counseling and other mental health services it provides, but to be a good partner in the community, linking arms with the South Lane School District, PeaceHealth Cottage Grove Community Hospital and Clinics, and numerous local nonprofits, government agencies and private businesses. One of our biggest goals: To increase empathy and tolerance surrounding mental illness.

South Lane Mental Health plays an extensive and crucial role in fostering the community’s mental health. Our staff has helped thousands of Cottage Grove area community members with everything from short-term crisis counseling to long-term therapy, medication management and substance use disorder treatment. We’ve helped hundreds of parents and children bond more closely. We’ve provided intensive supportive care to scores of individuals who have persistent mental health issues. And we’ve provided counseling to hundreds of school-age children who are navigating troubles at home or on the playground. Often our best results, as with good primary care, are found in what untoward events haven’t happened.

We are always adapting our programs and services to meet emerging needs. One example of this is a recent expansion into serving residents of North Douglas County. Another example is celebrating the one-year anniversary of opening an innovative Substance Use Disorder Services program for adolescents, and adults who are struggling with both mental health issues and addictions. We offer different treatment styles for different clients because we recognize that one size does not fit all.

South Lane Mental Health’s extensive programs and strong client-centered approach are important assets for the South Lane/North Douglas county region. They have earned the agency kudos around the state, and they demonstrate our community’s level of caring and compassion.

The great majority of our clients are community residents — people such as you and me — who have simply come up against a mental health issue and need expert help. Our goal is to make the community stronger, whether by helping to house individuals with a serious mental illness who cannot be cared for by their families, by providing therapy that brings families closer together, or by helping individuals kick their destructive addictions.

Jim Harrison is a retired family physician who has worked for many years in the Cottage Grove area. He is chairman of the board of South Lane Mental Health, www.slmh.org.

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(1) comment

ralpho

Mr. Harrison, I don't think you understand what you are talking about. The rise in violence, homelessness and heartbreak in this and other countries is the result of the collapse of our Western Civilization. Were we all poor and outcast we could be happy, but when the poor and unloved must suffer while watching successful people enjoy their happiness, a reaction of hate developes against the entire society with the successful people as the focus of that hatred. At this point the downtrodden can choose to lash out with destructive actions, or they can find solace in drugs like marijuana and opium. Laws making these ancient remedies illegal add more punishment and more suffering to those who need them. You need to know that every decent human on this planet despises you and the evil system that supports you and yours.

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