NAPA, Calif. – January 11, 2013 –The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School has drawn attention to the staggering number of adolescents and young adults experiencing mental health issues—and the need for accessible treatment. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five children and adolescents and nearly eight percent of 18 to 25 year-olds have had or currently have a severe mental disorder. However, of individuals who have mental health issues, less than half receive treatment. “This is a startling statistic,” states Mark Bontrager, Executive Director of Aldea Children and Family Services, a Napa-based nonprofit that offers professional mental health and child welfare services. “Imagine if only half of individuals with diabetes or cancer sought treatment. The long-term consequences of delaying treatment is costly—both in terms of the more intensive treatment needed and the cost of lives. On average, people with mental illness live dramatically shorter lives than those without.”
In addition to the length of life, mental illness can impact the quality of life of both individuals with mental illness and those around them. According to the U.S. Health and Human Services Agency, people with untreated mental health disorders are at high risk for numerous harmful behaviors, such as substance abuse and violent or self-destructive behaviors. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that mental health problems are correlated with chronic diseases. “The misconception is that mental health is a private concern unrelated to physical health,” continues Bontrager. “However, mental health—especially that of youth, who need our guidance to get treatment—is a public health issue. Thousands of teenagers and young adults in our region are struggling with mental health problems. Unfortunately, many people don’t know how to recognize these problems, or don’t know where to go for help. As a result, many youth with mental disorders don’t receive treatment, which can lead to serious problems throughout their lives.”
Bontrager points to Aldea’s Mental Health First Aid training as a solution to connecting people with mental health services. Since Aldea implemented the program in 2010, staff has trained more than 1,000 teachers, first responders, and local residents from Napa and Solano counties on how to identify and assess mental health issues, and provide low-level intervention and referrals when needed. Individuals who are trained in Mental Health First Aid—an evidence-based model implemented in 15 countries—demonstrate decreased stigmatizing attitudes and have greater likelihood of advising people to seek professional help. The training also improves the mental health of participants themselves.
“Our Mental Health First Aid training provides a missing link between individuals with mental health issues and the services they need. By decreasing the stigma related to mental health and training the community on how to identify problems, people are appropriately referred to services, including Aldea’s counseling programs. Our community doesn’t have to wonder how to help or where to get help. Aldea is here.”
Aldea Children and Family Services has been changing lives and creating bright futures since 1972 through professional mental health and child welfare services that assist, support, and strengthen families. Aldea Counseling Services for individuals in need include therapy, psychiatry, psychological testing, advocacy, and support groups, as well as respite care for families who have children with emotional challenges. For more information about Aldea and its mental health programs, please call 707-224-8266 or visit www.aldeainc.org.