Mental health is gradually emerging from a stigma-induced shadow as more people become willing to share their struggles and seek help.
A Central Oregon-based initiative is trying to encourage that process in Crook County and other communities throughout the region. Mind Your Mind Central Oregon, an effort to promote everyday mental health, is reaching out on behalf of local mental and physical health providers and advocates to remind people about the importance of seeking emotional care and support every day and especially during challenging times. Locally, they have reached out to primary health care providers and the Crook County Health Department.
"People are experiencing high levels of stress right now. Business owners are struggling, individuals are navigating employment and housing challenges, parents are juggling work while trying to keep their kids on track," said Jessica Jacks, prevention supervisor for Deschutes County Health Services. "We all need to be vigilant about using our coping skills and reaching out for help when we need it."
The initiative is funded by a regional grant and Deschutes County Health Services is the fiscal agent for that grant.
"When we launched the campaign, we did a tri-county phone survey to get a sense of where people in each community were in terms of daily mental health and wellness," said Linda Quon, the initiative's spokesperson. "Then we did focus groups in each county, too."
The outreach drew great feedback on what challenges people face, Quon said, particularly in rural communities such as Crook County. Locally, health officials learned that the pandemic has increased the potential for mental health issues.
"What we have been hearing anecdotally is that this is an incredibly stressful time for folks in our community, and there is a lot of isolation with the physical distancing and a lot of unknown in our community," said Heather Stuart, prevention specialist at Crook County Health Department. "It is definitely increasing risk factors for substance use in the sense that we are lacking our community support. We are lacking alternative activities and finding ways to cope with additional stress."
Mind Your Mind is asking for community members to continue to talk about mental health, encourage self-care and connect residents with professional mental health resources.
"The campaign is working with primary care providers to remind patients and providers that these conversations are really important," Quon said.
Amid the pandemic, physical health issues have risen to the forefront, but Mind Your Mind leaders want to emphasize the importance of caring for the mind as well as the body.
"One of the messages we are really trying to promote is that mental health and physical health really go hand in hand," Quon said, "and oftentimes people don't make that connection."
She pointed out that fatigue or a headache or stomachache could be related to stress or anxiety.
Mind Your Mind has a website that provides tips and mental health resources for Central Oregon's three counties. In addition, the initiative offers a Facebook page with regular posts that provide resources and publishes a blog twice a month.
Campaign organizers not only want people who need help to reach out and utilize these online resources, they want people to share their struggles and help other people realize they are not the only ones facing challenges.
"We are asking people to share their stories," Quon said.
Mind Your Mind Central Oregon
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