The growing population of those with mental health issues in Northeast Arkansas is a big concern for advocates. Jen Vincent, who is a mental health awareness advocate in Jonesboro, desires to see improvements in policies and treatment locally.
“I would like to see there be some kind of checklist,” says Vincent. “For families to be able to know, if I have a loved one that is maybe bipolar, do I take them to the police, do I take them to the hospital?”
It’s estimated that one in five people will be affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime.
Matthew Knight, who is a licensed professional counselor and the education and marketing director at Midsouth Health Systems in Jonesboro says the risk factor is complicated by poverty and substance abuse in the Arkansas Delta.
“You have people that struggle with everyday things that just come up in our everyday lives,” says Knight. “It may be a series of losses that causes depression. It may be anxiety about changes that are taking place in one’s life.”
The biggest challenge is destigmatization, and getting those in need, the visibility they deserve.
“Just because a person has a mental illness, doesn’t mean they aren’t talented. And intelligent,” explains Knight. “We’d just like to think of it as something that normally happens in people’s lives. And that’s what we talk about a great deal.”
Specialists emphasize the importance of getting timely and appropriate help for those that show signs of a mental health crisis. In doing this, you can contact Midsouth Health Systems or the Arkansas chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.