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Mental health matters

May 19, 2000

"Mental health matters" is National Mental Health Association's slogan for May - mental health month.

Mental illness affects one in five Americans, but most don't receive treatment. The stigma of mental illness is one of the reasons people don't seek help.

cont. from lifestyle

What is mental illness?

Mental illnesses are brain disorders that disrupt thinking, feeling, moods and ability to relate to others, according to information on the Web site of National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

Last year marked the first White House conference on mental illness. Last year also was the first time a U.S. Surgeon General issued a report on mental health.

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Advocates for those with mental illness believe that awareness can reduce stigma, inform people that mental illness is treatable and help them get help.

One in five children has a diagnosable mental, emotional or behavioral disorder. One in 10 may suffer from a serious emotional disturbance, according to the Rockville, Md.-based Center for Mental Health Statistics.

Is mental illness among children increasing? Opinions vary.

"I think they are having more problems. I can't say why," says Denise Abbott, program manager of LifeSkills, a program provided by The Mental Health Center in Hagerstown.

Mark Melton, Child and Adolescent Services Coordinator with Washington County Mental Health Authority, doesn't believe that there are more problems. He thinks people, including teachers and principals, are more in tune with the possibility of problems because they have to be - for the safety of other children as well as the child who may have the problem.

Melton also believes that there is an abundance of mental health services available locally.

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