When it comes to mental illness, there can be many misunderstandings and preconceptions. “We’re really trying to get people to understand what mental illness is so they can appropriately address it, and get rid of that prejudice or stigma around folks with mental illness so they can get into treatment,” said Richard Keelan, a child advocacy program coordinator with Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.
Through programs like Mental Health First Aid, Parenting the Exceptional Child, and Mental Health Matters, Keelan educates adults on the signs and symptoms of mental illness. “It also gives you the skills to intervene in a crisis just like First Aid or CPR would for medical issues,” he said.
He educates and trains families, caregivers, daycare workers, teachers, youth group leaders, and all Lee Health physician groups on how to identify and manage children with mental illness.
“Right now the national average is it takes 8 to 10 years for the onset of symptoms for people to get into treatment. We get people into treatment then we can get them doing well, particularly our kids and our next generation,” Keelan said.
The classes also help to diminish the stigma that’s often attached to mental illness. “Unfortunately, it’s been deliberately ignored, and that’s really about the misunderstanding that mental illness is different than any other illness, but when you really look at it, we are now able to take pictures of the brain, it’s called a PET scan and diagnose both schizophrenia and clinical depression. How could anything be more medical than that,” he said.
Tackling an important topic to help children and families get the care they need.
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