Originally Published: August 19, 2014 6:02 a.m.
Every now and then, news events remind us of the fallout from mental illness. Robin Williams' suicide was another jarring wakeup call. Authorities say Williams hanged himself in his California home. A brilliant comic and accomplished actor, Williams, 63, had long acknowledged his fight with depression and substance abuse.
Admitting the need for help is one step that too many people will not take. The stigma tied to needing help for your brain remains a major hurdle. There's a feeling of shame attached. For example, families often do not acknowledge in obituaries that their loved one died from suicide.
Somehow, this reluctance has to fade. We shined a light on it in Sunday's Courier Life section. As a community, we must get to a point where talking about mental illness doesn't lead to parents, children, teachers or business professionals squirming in their chairs.
Also unfortunate is the fact that many people who need it do not get the care necessary to appropriately treat their illness, due in part to a shortage of resources. Thankfully, the statements, "I don't have insurance" or "I cannot afford it, even with my insurance," now are moot.
A West Yavapai Guidance Clinic program, called JumpStart, provides three to five counseling sessions to people who have neither private nor public insurance.
"The intent of this program is to help people who are going through tough times and are seeking professional, short-term guidance, yet they don't have coverage for counseling," said Laura Norman, director of development and communication.
To learn more about JumpStart's brief, solution-focused counseling services, call 928-379-2660.
This pilot project is possible by donations to the West Yavapai Guidance Clinic Foundation from the Margaret T. Morris Foundation, the J.W. Kieckhefer Foundation, the Harold James Family Trust, and the Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold Foundation.
However, access to treatment is only a part of the equation. Another is a willingness to reach out to a friend or family member whom you may suspect needs help. It takes real courage to ask someone, "Are you thinking of ending it all?"
Meanwhile, society as a whole needs to become more comfortable discussing mental health. We spend a lot of time, rightfully so, encouraging physical fitness and the importance of annual check-ups. But we also must encourage adults to talk to their children about mental health.
This is a conversation that needs to be ongoing, not one that fades away until the next high-profile tragedy occurs.