Prosecutor encourages community to take care of mental health

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Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton

HANCOCK COUNTY — With the month of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton says many people who end up in legal trouble are often battling mental health issues. That’s why he is encouraging those in need of professional help to get it as soon as possible.

“The importance of mental health is recognized today more than ever,” Eaton said. “Millions of Americans struggle with mental health issues each year.”

Eaton’s office noted that May is Mental Health Awareness Month and is an important time set aside to spotlight mental health issues, combat stigmas surrounding mental health conditions, and to assess the status of one’s own mental health.

“Paying attention to our mental health is a practice we all need to develop,” Eaton said. “The fact is, mental health is every bit as important to our well-being as physical health.”

Mental Health Awareness Month began as a national observance in 1949 with the goal of raising awareness of the importance of mental well-being.

While Eaton noted that strides have been made regarding attitudes toward mental health, many Americans don’t have access to the care they need, which is often just a call away. Eaton shared sobering statistics regarding mental health in America from the National Council for Mental Wellbeing which show that one in five adults experience some form of mental illness each year.

Statistics also show only 47.2% of adults with mental illness received treatment in 2021 and that one in 20 adults experience serious mental illness each year. Eaton went on to say that only 65.4% of adults with serious mental illness received the treatment needed in 2021 and one in six U.S. youth have a mental health condition, but only half of the kids who need help receive treatment.

Overall, Eaton noted some 50% of all lifetime mental illnesses begin by the age of 14 and 75% by age 24.

“It’s important to foster dialogues and approach the issue with empathy and understanding,” Eaton said. “There should be no guilt or shame associated with mental health conditions which are common, manageable and treatable.”

The 2024 theme for Mental Health Awareness Month has been “Where to Start: Mental Health in a Changing World.”

Eaton went on to say organizations like Mental Health America (MHA) want to remind the community the world is constantly changing, and it can be overwhelming to deal with everything going on around you, so it’s good to reach out and get help.

“MHA stresses that it is never too soon to seek treatment for your mental health,” Eaton said. “Getting help early saves lives.”

Some mental health resources include the SAMHSA’s National Helpline, which is a 24/7 treatment referral and information service; 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline offers 24/7 confidential support for people in distress; and MHA screenings provide a free, anonymous way to determine if someone is experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition. People can take the test at mhascreening.org.