Suicide, mental illness topic of commissioners



LOCK HAVEN —“Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States. 41 percent of adults with mental illness have not received treatment. We believe that the mentally ill can recover and be productive members of society, as long as they can deal with inevitable stressors and difficulties. We all do this because we care.”

Those were the words of Lauralee Dingler, on behalf of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) of Northcentral Pennsylvania, at Thursday’s county commissioners meeting.

Dingler, who volunteers for NAMI and works for the Lycoming-Clinton Joinder Board, received a proclamation from the commissioners in recognition of May as Mental Health Awareness Month.

Commissioner Paul Conklin read the proclamation.

“Mental health is a part of overall health. Mental health sustains an individual’s thought processes, relationships, productivity, and ability to adapt to change.”

Conklin said, one in 25 adults live with mental illness, such as major depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Roughly one half of chronic mental illness begins by the mid-teens and 75 percent by the mid-20s, and an estimated 26 percent of homeless adults staying in shelters live with mental illness.

“Early identification and treatment can make a profound difference in successful management of mental illness and recovery. It is important to maintain mental health and to recognize the symptoms of mental illness and seek help when it is needed. Every citizen and community can make a difference and help end the silence and stigma surrounding mental illness that for decades has discouraged people from getting available help,” Conklin continued. “Through public education and civic activities, we can address the challenges facing people with mental illness, and can support, empower and assist in improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.”

Community member Mike Remick asked Dingler what is done, and what more can be done, to provide early identification, prevention and intervention, particularly with youth, of mental illness.

“We do assessments and take phone calls,” Dingler replied. “I believe that there is a stigma, that some of those people don’t want to be identified. They can come to us and we will help them get the resources they need. Anonymity is always an important part of what we do. We have also trained police and employees at the prison on mental health first aid, and try to do more to provide identification. A lot is about education and providing information.”

“By and large, society does not seem to provide enough early identification, prevention and intervention,” Remick said.

“We will keep singing that song to make people more aware,” responded commissioner Robert “Pete” Smeltz. “We can’t act on what our people don’t know about.”