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Breaking the Stigma of Mental Health

May is Mental Health Awareness month, and while this topic has been widely recognized as a growing issue, there’s still so many layers to be discovered. In fact right here in our own community we are still learning about the different struggles people face and how to best help.

“The community of Fort Wayne and Allen County has done a great job of increasing awareness of mental health resources and addressing the stigma associated with mental health,” said Brent Stachler, Sr. VP of Clinical and Pastoral Resources at The Rescue Mission.

The Rescue Mission is no stranger to the battles that those facing mental health struggles deal with every day. Often, homelessness and mental health issues can go hand in hand.

According to the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, “An individual’s mental illness may lead to cognitive and behavioral problems that make it difficult to earn a stable income or to carry out daily activities that encourage stable housing.”

Over the past few years, The Rescue Mission has worked to find new ways and resources to help those with mental health struggles. One of these was forming partnerships with expert professionals within the community. Parkview Behavioral Health, also known as PBH, is one of these partnerships.

“The Rescue Mission does offer specific services for those presenting with a mental health illness,” shared Stachler. “One of these programs is Outreach, in which the individual is offered the opportunity to be connected with Parkview Behavioral Health/Park Center and Alliance Health Center for primary mental health services.”

The mission’s partnership with Alliance Health launched in 2023. As of now, this clinic serves the community regardless of health coverage situation. An exciting growth to this partnership is the addition of on-site counselors planned to join Alliance coming Fall 2024.

While this is great for individuals in proximity to Alliance Health and The Rescue Mission, what about others? How do we help others in need? First, how do to we recognize the need to seek help?

“It is just a different mindset, right?” said Christine Kelty, Employment Coordinator at Park Center, referring to visible signs of a mental illness. “Maybe somebody talks to themselves. Maybe somebody talks to the air. Maybe somebody talks about God a little too much, you know, makes people uncomfortable. Maybe they’re in somebody’s personal space. So that in itself is uncomfortable right?”

While certain signs, like talking to oneself, can be more obvious, mental health is not always a visible struggle. It could be well-hidden anxiety, depression, acts of self-harm or something else. These issues and more can lead to serious actions, even as severe as suicide if untreated.

So, what do we do when we are faced with the uncomfortable? How do we communicate with those struggling?

“First, get some help for that person,” Kelty said. “Don’t think it’s just going to go way on its own.”

Although it is hard to understand what someone with a mental health struggle is feeling internally, it is important to express to them that there is a possibility of healing. The goal of The Rescue Mission is to provide hope and restore dignity to every individual. This includes hope from the inside out both emotionally and mentally.

“Individuals with a mental health crisis need to know there is hope,” Stachler expressed. “At The Rescue Mission, we will seek to link the individual(s) with the necessary resources.”

While it can be hard to acknowledge a struggle you might be dealing with yourself or with someone you know or love, healing is possible.

If you or someone you know is struggling, RemedyLIVE has a 24-hour hotline with trained individuals ready to talk and help at 494949.