Awareness of Mental Health Issues Increasingly Important for Extension Professionals

According to www.mentalhealth.gov, one in five American adults have experienced a mental health issue. One in 10 young people have experienced a period of major depression. One in 25 Americans live or have lived with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depressive disorder. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for the loss of more than 41,000 American lives each year–more than double the number of lives lost to homicide.

With statistics like these, it is no wonder that Cooperative Extension professionals increasingly find themselves faced nearly every day with the ramifications of mental health problems in the communities they serve.

Why should it matter to their work? It matters because, according to www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org, people with mental health problems–and the people closest to them–often don’t know how to ask for help. By being more informed and prepared, Extension professionals can help bridge the gap between community members in need and the resources and support available for them.

It’s time for Extension professionals to be educated about mental health problems and learn what they can do to best serve and help reduce the social stress of mental health problems in their communities. How does one best address clientele affected by mental health problems? How does one make suggestions, connect them to referral and help resources, and do it effectively, in a non-threatening way?

Extension professionals often cannot assist their clientele directly when when they spot mental health problems, but they can connect those affected with local resources and support. It is increasingly important that Extension professionals are prepared to face mental health problems head-on and that they have a plan in place in case they are faced with crisis situations.

Learn more about how Extension professionals can help their communities address mental health issues in our webinar, “The Importance of Mental Health Awareness for Extension Professionals” on Wednesday, June 22, 2016 at 2 p.m. EST (11 a.m. PST). More information and the option to add this webinar to your calendar is here: https://learn.extension.org/events/2679.

Submitted by: Jami Dellifield, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, and Amanda Raines, 4-H Program Assistant, both of Ohio State University Extension, Hardin County

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