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EDITORIAL: Removing the stigma means first recognizing it is there

News Courier - 5/5/2022

May 4—The news of Naomi Judd's death April 30 came as a shock to most of us in North Alabama and across the nation. But elaboration from the family about the nature of her death is something we must learn from.

The Alabama Department of Mental Health takes the opportunity each May to recognize Mental Health Month to raise awareness about mental health and reduce stigma. That such recognition is needed is told by the numbers: the ADMH provided mental illness and substance use disorder services to about 140,000 people in Alabama in 2021. Thousands more were reached through community partnerships.

The recognition comes prominently in the message that all of us, at some time, will experience difficulty and mental health challenges in our lives — but that each of us should be secure in knowing that in a crisis, we have "someone to call, someone to come to them and someplace to go."

To this end, Alabama leadership and the legislature are renewing the 9-8-8 Commission — a nationwide transition to a three-digit crisis line planned to launch in July — funding six crisis diversion centers and expanding rural crisis care programs.

Each of these components will work in tandem with the goal of efficiently linking individuals in crisis to the specific resources they need, in addition to reducing inappropriate hospital admissions and decreasing the potential for traumatic interactions with law enforcement.

That these are ambitious goals is understood. But understanding first comes by recognizing the need for those goals. This month is the time to do that.


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