Mental Health Promotion in Lane County
Mental health is “a state of successful performance of mental function, resulting in productive activities, fulfilling relationships with other people, and the ability to adapt to change and cope with adversity…For children, mental health is not seen as residing solely within the child, but within the web of interactions among the individual child; the family, the school, health, and other child service systems; and the neighborhoods and communities in which the child lives.” (Promotion and Prevention in Mental Health, SAMHSA, 2007)
Mental health promotion is the enhancement of the capacity of individuals, families, groups or communities to strengthen or support positive emotional, cognitive and related experiences (Hodgson, et al, 1996).
In any given year, the percentage of young people with [mental, emotional and behavioral] disorders is estimated to be between 14-20 percent. The annual quantifiable cost of such disorders among young people was estimated in 2007 to be $247 billion (Preventing Mental, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People, 2009).
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among Oregon youth aged 10-24. Oregon’s suicide rate is 35% higher than the national average. Depression is the most common underlying cause of suicide (Suicides in Oregon: Trends and Risk Factors, Oregon Department of Human Services, 2010).
Promoting mental health for all Americans will require scientific know-how but, even more importantly, a societal resolve that we will make the needed investment. The investment does not call for massive budgets; rather, it calls for the willingness of each of us to educate ourselves and others about mental health and mental illness, and thus to confront the attitudes, fear, and misunderstanding that remain as barriers before us. David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D., Surgeon General, 1999
In Lane County, 15 percent of 6th graders, 20 percent of 8th graders and nearly 21 percent of 11th graders had a depressive episode in the last year (2010 Oregon Wellness Survey).
Between 2004-06, eight percent of Lane County adults, 18 and over, had a major depressive episode and 11 percent were identified with serious mental illness; from 2005-06, 20 percent of those 18-25 years of age experienced serous psychological distress in the past year (National Survey on Drug Use & Health, 2008)
Mental health is a “state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” – World Health Organization
While mental, emotional and behavioral disorders result in huge costs psychologically and financially to individuals, families, and communities, efforts to prevent future disorders and promote mental health strategies have been minimal.
Risk factors are conditions that increase the likelihood that an individual might develop a mental health disorder or engage in unhealthy behavior. Examples are:
- Prenatal alcohol, tobacco and other drug use
- Biological or inherited predisposition to a mental disorder
- Stigma and bias toward mental illness, depression and suicide
- Lack of mental health and social service resources and social support
- Social isolation and low attachment/bonding to family, community
- Availability of alcohol and other drugs and firearms
- Poverty , poor nutrition
- Exposure to discrimination, bullying, abuse and neglect
Protective factors or assets are conditions that shelter an individual from risk factors and support healthy development. Examples are:
- Bonding and attachment to family, school, community
- Development of social skills and resiliency
- Access to and availability of social, mental health and medical services
- Adequate socioeconomic family resources including income, safe housing, and healthcare
- Adequate nutrition and exercise
- Community norms and laws that reduce stigma, discrimination, substance abuse and support healthy behaviors
What We Can Do
Effective solutions involve interventions that are evidenced-based, integrated into existing systems of support and implemented in a number of settings such as schools, clinics, worksites and faith communities.
- Educating the public about the prevention of mental illness, mental health promotion and how to support those with mental illness or depression through public awareness campaigns and information dissemination
- Supporting the adoption of school-based prevention programs that promote social and emotional development, enhance problem-solving skills and increase self-esteem
- Offering parental education and support, from the prenatal period through adolescence
- Providing community and school-based training and interventions related to identifying risks, reducing stigma, and strengthening intervention skills
- Implementing strategies to support women in reducing unhealthy behaviors and stress, and increasing good nutrition and positive lifestyle behaviors before, during and following pregnancy.
For many years Lane County has invested in supporting these strategies; however, such efforts have been intermittently funded and sustained.
Progress in Lane County & Oregon
- Public awareness campaigns, websites and educational resources have been created to increase understanding and reduce stigma associated with mental illness and suicide
- The Oregon Safe Schools Act was passed in 2009 to strengthen anti-bullying policies in public schools
- Elementary and secondary school curricula and programs have been implemented in various school districts to strengthen social competency, coping and conflict resolution skills, and increase resiliency
- Several schools in Lane County have adopted suicide prevention curriculum and provided staff training
- Family Resource Centers and other programs, in urban and rural Lane County locations, provide parent education, resources and support
- The Lane County Suicide Prevention Steering Committee, formed in 2008, has been active in identifying issues, needs, gaps and resources
- Mental Health First Aid training offered widely
- The first Mental Health Promotion position was created and staff hired August 2010