Misconceptions on mental illness need to be shattered, experts say

In light of recent events, many people are looking for an explanation.

Melissa McCauley with Mark Twain Behavioral Health said sometimes there is no explanation.

McCauley said when there is a community tragedy or national tragedy it really rocks our sense of safety, and there are certain responses we should expect.

â??We expect the person to have some physical reactions,â?? McCauley said. â??(There are) also some emotional changes. They may feel very disconnected. They may feel very angry, confused, sad (or) perplexed. A person may stop eating for awhile. There may be some changes in their sleep habits and changes in just how they function through the day, and those are all really normal responses to trauma.â??

McCauley said the symptoms become problematic if you are still having them a few months down the road.

She said there are certain things we can do to make sure we cope with the events.

â??There are a lot of things people can do to help themselves feel better or help someone else whoâ??s really struggling,â?? McCauley said. â??I think one of the things is to try and go about your day and regular routines. (You should) try to do something that brings joy every day because it's very easy to get hyper focused on the negative.â??

She said one of the things the community can do is really listen and pay attention to friends and neighbors.

â??If (someone you know) wants to talk about things that bother them listen,â?? McCauley said. â??Listening is very important. It gives that person an opportunity to express themselves.â??

According to McCauley there are some things to look for when trying to identify if someone has a health issue.

â??When does it cross the line from I (have) some mild depression and I have some mild anxiety into maybe this person really needs to go get some help,â?? she said.

â??(Also) if there are marked personality changes if the person begins having disorganized speech, disorganized behavior or severe paranoia....anything that is not normal for that person.â??

Vince Minn Program Director for CPRC with Preferred Family Health said there are a lot of misconceptions that come along with mental health issues.

â??A misconception is that people with mental health or mental illness issues are dangerous, or they're volatile,â?? Minn said. â??While those things happen sometimes, and they make news, and they sell lots of papersâ?¦the vast majority of people with mental illness are just like you and me. They're your neighbor, they're your parents, they're your kids, your teacher, your doctor or (whomever) and they have an illness just like any other. I think the misconception is that people with mental illness are dangerous, or you can somehow look at them and know that there is something wrong with them. Theyâ??re no more different than the rest of society with any other illness whether it's diabetes or heart disease.â??

Minn said he would challenge people who struggle with mental illness to advocate for themselves more.

â??I would challenge those who struggle with mental illness to ask themselves how are they representing their own community,â?? Minn said. â??What I mean by that is periodically you'll see people who have a disability, and they're in a march advocating for equal treatment and respect. I believe any community that has an issue be that mental illness community or whatever I think they have a responsibility to advocate for themselves to represent the community in a way that the rest of the general public can approach and appreciate and understand. I think itâ??s one of the last areas of our society where people are much more inclined to have misconceptions as well as keep it in the closet sort of speak because it's so misunderstood.

Mark Twain Behavioral Health offers a variety of services.

"We are a community and mental health agency which means that we are a part of the Department of Mental Health and so we administer some of their programs such as community psychiatric rehabilitation, which is basically designed to help people function well in their communities,â?? she said.

â??We also offer medication management and counseling services.â??

You can call both Mark Twain Behavioral Health and Preferred Family Health for more information on their services.