Mental Health Awareness Month — is awareness enough? (Opinion)

Rob Galloway
Publisher's Perspective

While many statistics surrounding mental health are still being compiled for the calendar year of 2020, it’s not rocket science to understand things did not get better. They got predominantly worse. Yet, even with the year-over-year growth in mental illness, services for it cannot keep up.

Rob Galloway

Half of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% begin by age 24 according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. That’s a frightening statistic for any parent – especially coming out of an experience like the pandemic.

I had my own personal experience with one of my children and I know I am not alone. After talking with the guidance counselor about the issue, she mentioned that she had never seen as many kids failing as she has seen this year. COVID has crushed our kids.

I cannot imagine, especially in my formative years in high school, not having the daily and ongoing social interaction with my friends, their families, and just the general public. That has to take a mental toll on our youth. To what degree, we won’t really know for years – that’s the scary part.

On average, NAMI says the delay between symptom onset and treatment is 11 years. 11 years!

So how do we help those that need it most and try to help catch this illness sooner? Pay attention.

Warning signs of mental illness:

•Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks

•Significant weight loss or gain

•Intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities

•Extreme difficulty concentrating or staying still

•Excessive use of alcohol or drugs

•Drastic changes in mood, behavior, personality or sleeping habits

Since 2017 the Tribune has changed our logo in support of Mental Health Awareness Month. While raising awareness on a topic is so important to a small community, it still probably isn’t enough. As services scramble to keep up with growing statistics, we can make a difference by taking an active role in our loved ones lives.

Maybe that’s simply having a conversation about ones behavior and letting them know you’ve noticed a difference, or taking it one step further and helping them get the help they truly need. Any type of care or involvement could potentially save or life, or at the very least, alter a path that is less self-destructive.

People with serious mental illness have increased risk for chronic disease and one in eight of all visits to U.S. emergency departments are related to mental and substance use disorders. This issue not only taxes other health-related services, it also can tax caregivers who spend an average of 32 hours per week providing unpaid care.

Each situation is unique for certain. But, at the core of mental illness are people. The people that have the illness and the people it affects. We can make a difference. While we might not be able to fund a specific service (although feel free to think big), we can at least take an action that costs nothing: paying attention.

Publisher Rob Galloway can be reached at or 530-542-8046.

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