Recent research from the Orange County Health Department has concluded that the top four barriers to accessing mental health treatment are affordability, transportation, language and stigma. October is National Mental Health Awareness month and aims to tackle these barriers that keep people from reaching out for help.
“One huge barrier is lack of awareness or lack of a perceived need,” said Dr. Kenan Penaskovic, UNC Hospitals director of inpatient psychiatry services “There’s a whole stigma and attitude of wanting to do this alone.”
Although UNC students have access for on-campus resources such as Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), utilizing those resources and reaching out for help can still be difficult, Dr. Allen O'Barr, director of CAPS, said. Active Minds, a student organization, is going to launch Companions to CAPS, a program that has volunteers walk students to CAPS who may feel apprehensive about reaching out for treatment.
“At this university, students are very dedicated to decreasing the stigma,” O'Barr said.“However, I do still think that some people are afraid of coming in.”
For those who feel like their mental health is in a good place, mental health awareness month can still be an important time to make sure that good mental health is maintained through self-care practices like getting an appropriate amount of sleep and exercise.
“Don’t take good mental health for granted. Appreciate it, recognize it as a gift, and work actively to make sure it stays in place and that you’re resilient enough to be able to take a turn if the turn happens,” O'Barr said.
There are also many Mental Health First Aid courses offered in the area that provide comprehensive training in identifying, understanding and responding to signs of addictions and mental illnesses.
Mental health awareness is especially important as research has shown mental and physical health are closely linked.
“People have no hesitancy if they are sick for two weeks, or not feeling well to talk about that or see the doctor,” Penaskovic said. “There is no health without mental health.”
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