Guest Perspective Op-Ed
by Chris Rasmussen
Published on Apr 28, 2021
This past year presented so many different challenges and obstacles that tested our strength and resiliency. The global pandemic forced us to cope with situations we never even imagined, and a lot of us struggled with our mental health as a result. The good news is that there are tools and resources available that can support the well-being of individuals and communities.
Throughout the pandemic, many people who had never experienced mental health challenges found themselves struggling for the first time.
Now, more than ever, we need to combat the stigma surrounding mental health concerns. That’s why this Mental Health Month, San Mateo County Health is highlighting #HopeForChange. Change is not always planned. Growth can be powerful and empowering. It can also be uncomfortable. #HopeForChange reminds us to spread and rely on the hope that carried us through a year of change.
During the month of May, we are focusing on different topics that can help process the events of the past year and the feelings surrounding them while also building up skills and supports beyond COVID-19. The San Mateo County Mental Health Month Planning Committee and partners have organized almost 50 virtual events targeting age groups and being available in several languages.
We know the past year forced many to accept challenging situations they had little to no control over. If you found that it affected your mental health, you aren’t alone. Mental health and substance use conditions affect one in four U.S. adults in 2019; estimates suggest that one in four adults with a mental health condition are not receiving the help they need, and communities faced increasing mental health challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The percentage of adults who had symptoms of anxiety or a depressive disorder and those with unmet mental health needs increased significantly (from 36.4% to 41.5% and 9.2% to 11.7%, respectively) from August 2020 to February 2021
Stigma and lack of awareness of resources are some of the key barriers preventing people from getting help around mental health and substance use issues. It’s important to remember that working on your mental health and finding tools that help you thrive takes time. Change won’t happen overnight. Instead, by focusing on small changes, you can move through the stressors of the past year and develop long-term strategies to support yourself.
Negative experiences reinforce the perpetuation of mental health stigma in counseling and language barriers that inhibit access to care. In a nationwide survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) in 2015, only 5.5% of psychologists — regardless of race or ethnicity — said they could provide Spanish-speaking services.
It’s no secret that all of us are experiencing something challenging right now. All of those hidden aspects of your mental health — that maybe you’ve never addressed before — could be front and center in your life, especially in this new COVID world. This year’s Mental Health Month is coming at the perfect time — it’s a gentle reminder that we can’t just push those recent struggles under the rug.
Mental Health Month started more than 70 years ago, and it continues to be celebrated every May. There have been many changes in the mental health world, which is necessary to recognize how those changes affected us in our daily lives.
Today, we have easier access to therapy, and we can find resources and treatment options in so many different places. Now, more than ever, we’re all recognizing that mental health is something everyone should care about — and that’s something to celebrate.
Ultimately, I want to remind everyone that mental illnesses are real, and recovery is possible. It is possible to find a balance between life’s ups and downs and continue to #HopeForChange with the challenges brought on by the pandemic.
The Mental Health and Substance Abuse Recovery Commission was established by state and local ordinances to provide oversight of county mental health and substance abuse services and to provide advice to the Board of Supervisors and the Director of Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, and to advocate for mental health and substance abuse clients and issues. The commission continues to support San Mateo County Behavioral Health efforts to balance program accountability and compliance with federal, state and local laws and regulations with a continuing focus on quality and innovation.
Visit www.smchealth.org/mentalhealthmonth for more information and a schedule of events.
Chris Rasmussen is a retired police officer with 30 years of service. He continues to advocate for unsheltered residents of his community and the mentally ill.
He has served as a Commissioner on the San Mateo County Mental Health and Substance Abuse Recovery Commission for two years and is the Chair of the Children and Youth Committee. In his spare time, he volunteers for several nonprofits and coaches youth sports.
The Farm Hill Neighborhood Association is a Subscriber of the San Mateo Daily Journal.
The link to this "Guest Perspective Op-Ed" on the San Mateo Daily Journal website is www.smdailyjournal.com/opinion/guest_perspectives/there-is-hope-for-mental-health