Coastal Port Mental Health Awareness

Small steps can lead to big progress in mental health care. In America, approximately one in five Americans currently suffer from a mental health problem; and approximately one in 25 adults experience a serious mental illness that significantly interferes with one or more major life activities. Additionally, 17% of Americans ages 12 and older have a substance use disorder. If left unchecked, the negative impact of these disorders will increase.

Now is the time to act. As CEO of Coastal Harbor Health System, my staff and I have the privilege of serving many members of our community who are experiencing one of the most challenging times of their lives: mental health or substance use disorders that may be invisible to the casual observer in their life. ways that physical illnesses are not. As a behavioral health organization, we must build capacity to meet the need… attracting new providers, expanding our workforce, investing in prevention and removing barriers to care.

Since its founding in 1949, May has been declared Mental Health Awareness Month. This observance provides an opportunity for reflection and action to address the stigma that prevents individuals from getting the care they need.

The good news is that there is hope and resources for recovery. Today, positive results are not only possible, they are experienced every day. Like chronic physical illnesses, mental health and substance use disorders can be diagnosed and treated effectively. Individuals who were once desperate can live their best lives. This is very rewarding and one of the many reasons I chose to work in this field.

Moreover, at the end of April 2024, our country witnessed a historic achievement in suicide prevention. The 2024 National Suicide Prevention Strategy was released alongside the first federal action plan of its kind, making the strategy even more effective. The White House-led federal action plan places responsibility for progress on several departments, including the CDC, the Department of Defense (DoD), the VA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), HHS and others. We look forward to making meaningful progress in suicide prevention under this strategy.

What else can we do within our communities to recognize the signs of behavioral health problems and help people who need care and treatment?

• Listen and understand: If you suspect a loved one is struggling, encourage them to seek professional help.

• Share the Crisis Response number 988, a 24/7, free and confidential text, chat and talk support line. Military veterans can press ‘1’ for dedicated support. Find out more about implementing the 988 crisis line in your community this summer.

• In the event of an acute emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. Suicide is often preventable if people at risk get the support they need.

• Our schools should encourage students to pursue careers in behavioral health, whether through nursing, medical, or vocational training. We must inspire the next generation of talented professionals.

Working together, we can improve the lives of Americans struggling with mental health issues, not just this month, but every month in every community across the country. Mental well-being starts here. Sneha Patel CEO, Coastal Harbor Health System